Continuing Resolutions: Overview of Components and Recent Practices [January 14, 2016] [open pdf - 929KB]
"Congress uses an annual appropriations process to fund the routine activities of most federal agencies. This process anticipates the completion of 12 'regular appropriations bills' to fund these activities before the beginning of the fiscal year. Over the past half century, the timing of congressional action on regular appropriations bills has varied considerably, but enactment after the start of the fiscal year has been a recurring issue. Until regular appropriations for a fiscal year are enacted, one or more continuing appropriations acts (commonly known as 'continuing resolutions' or CRs) can be used to provide funding for a specified period of time. [...] This report will be updated after the annual appropriations process for a fiscal year has concluded."
CRS Report for Congress, R42647
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html