House Votes to Fund Government Through October
By Ben Pershing
The House voted Friday to keep federal agencies funded through the end of October, as the end of the government's fiscal year looms and the appropriations process is nowhere near complete.
The chamber approved, with a mostly party-line vote of 217-190, a continuing resolution to keep the government running at current funding levels while Congress slogs its way through spending bills. The resolution was attached to the legislative-branch appropriations measure, the only one of the 12 bills so far that has actually emerged from House-Senate conference negotiations. The Senate must now pass the bill by Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends.
The resolution would keep the money flowing at fiscal 2009 levels for nearly all government programs, with a few exceptions: The Veterans Health Administration would get a funding boost of roughly 10 percent, and the Census Bureau's budget will more than double as it prepares to conduct the 2010 Census. The CR also includes a ban on any federal funding contained therein from going to ACORN, the community organizing group that has come under heavy fire from Republicans in recent weeks. And the measure does a budgetary favor for the U.S. Postal Service, reducing by $4 billion a payment it is scheduled to make for retiree health benefits.
The GOP complained Friday about the CR being attached to the legislative branch bill, and the fact that the congressional funding measure was the first appropriations conference report ready for action.
"The priorities in this legislation are completely out of touch with the interests of the American people. It is simply irresponsible for the Democrat majority to move forward with funding for their own offices' expenses before approving funding for critical national needs," Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.
But Democrats pointed out that Republicans often attached continuing resolutions to appropriations measures when they were in the majority. And they say more House-Senate conference reports will be ready for action soon. The House has approved its versions of all 12 appropriations bills, while the Senate has passed six.
The legislative branch bill includes $4.66 billion to fund all congressional operations, a 3.5 percent increase over fiscal 2009 levels. That includes $50 million for a new fund to repair and restore House buildings.
Most congressional agencies got only small increases in their budgets, including the Congressional Budget Office, which has been especially busy of late, providing cost estimates for various health-care reform proposals. The CBO got a 2 percent budget boost, which includes money for 12 new employees "to increase CBO's capacity to analyze health care policy, financial and housing markets, and other areas of high congressional interest."
September 25, 2009; 12:01 PM ET
Categories: House , Purse Strings
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