Congress passes bill to keep government open until November

With fiscal 2005 quickly coming to a close, the House and Senate passed a resolution keeping the federal government open for another six weeks.

House lawmakers yesterday passed H.J. Res. 68 by a vote of 401-0. The bill would let agencies continue spending at 2005 levels through Nov. 18, while Congress finishes off the 2006 spending bills. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent this afternoon.

Congress has had to pass continuing resolutions every year since at least 2001, including three last year, to keep the government open because they could not finish the agency appropriations bills by Oct. 1'the beginning of the federal fiscal year.

For 2006, only two spending bills are law'Interior and Legislative Branch'and the Senate still must vote on four agency bills, including Defense and the Treasury, Transportation and Judiciary bills.

Yesterday, lawmakers reached agreement on differences between House and Senate versions of the Homeland Security appropriations bill.

The House passed all its bills and is waiting for the Senate to finish before going to conference committees to iron out the differences.

Both houses of Congress are hoping to avoid an omnibus appropriations bill, like they have done for the last three years.

'The chairman wants to go toward regular order,' said John Scofield, House Appropriations Committee spokesman. 'Larger packages have larger chances for mischief. We are looking for greater transparency.'

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