House, Senate pass stopgap funding bill

Wednesday, November 15th 2006, 8:55 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Congress passed a bill Wednesday that keeps open those agencies awaiting approval of their budgets as lawmakers seek a deal on lots of unfinished fiscal business.

The temporary spending measure sped through the House and Senate on voice votes. Without passage, 13 Cabinet agencies would have had to close down Friday at midnight. When President Bush signs the bill, the government will remain open through Dec. 8.

The bill's passage was the only significant accomplishment Wednesday by the postelection Congress. Senate leaders had hoped to turn to an agriculture spending bill and a bill to allow civilian nuclear fuel shipments to India, but lawmakers quickly bogged down.

Republican conservatives want to slow the appropriations process. They fear that Appropriations Committee members will muscle through a massive spending bill full of parochial projects as one of the last acts of Congress before Republicans lose control.

Farm-state Democrats, meanwhile, demanded a vote on a multibillion dollar billion farm disaster aid plan as part of the agriculture spending measure.

The net result was gridlock broken only by passage of the stopgap measure.

Congress has yet to finish nine of 11 spending bills for the budget year that began Oct. 1. Those bills total more than $460 billion. The only practicable way of finishing them before lawmakers exit Washington for good in December is to bundle them into one or more multiple bill proposals.

But there are divisions among Republican over whether to even try to advance the spending bills. Without GOP unity, it will be virtually impossible to do so. That raises the prospect that Democrats will have to tackle the difficult task after taking control of Congress in January.