Congress keeps government open another week

The federal government can keep operating until Nov. 7 under a continuing resolution passed in the House yesterday, 406 to 13, with the Senate's unanimous consent. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law today to avoid a shutdown.

The bill lets agencies continue to spend at fiscal 2003 levels. This is the second continuing resolution since the new fiscal year began Oct. 1; the first kept the government running through today.

Only three of 13 appropriations bills have become law'those for the Defense and Homeland Security departments and the legislative branch. The Senate has yet to vote on spending bills for the Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, State and Veterans Affairs departments and the District of Columbia.

The Interior Department's appropriations bill is closest to going to the White House. The House passed a conference report yesterday and the Senate likely will vote on it next week.

Susan Irving, director of federal budget analysis at the General Accounting Office, said earlier this week that she doesn't expect Congress will get many spending bills done by the end of November.

'I think Congress will put a chunk of the government on a continuing resolution until January,' Irving said at the Coalition for Government Procurement conference in Arlington, Va. 'It will be tough on those agencies working under the continuing resolution. It didn't work very well last year.'

Irving added that funding will remain tight over the next several years as the administration focuses on homeland security and military issues.

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