Congress keeps agencies funded through mid-November

Civilian agencies will stay open over the next several weeks after Congress passed a continuing resolution keeping them operational, even though the fiscal year ends Saturday.

Under a continuing resolution passed this morning as part of the fiscal 2007 Defense Department spending bill, the government will remain funded through Nov. 17, congressional officials said.

The resolution is important because aside from the DOD bill, Congress has only approved the Homeland Security Department's fiscal 2007 appropriations legislation. That leaves the rest of the government without fiscal 2007 funding.

Had the weekend passed with no resolution, these agencies would be forced to shut down until Congress approved the remaining spending bills.

With the November elections only a few weeks away, it is unlikely Congress will act on the remaining bills before the resolution expires, leaving only a few weeks for the lawmakers to act on the handful of spending bills.

To that end, House and Senate appropriations committee chairmen pledge they will pass each bill before closing up shop for the year.

In a recent letter to Senate majority leader Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House speaker Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) said they expect to pass each agency's spending bills separately, without the need for a massive omnibus package late in the year.

'Whether we work through the holidays or pass long-term continuing resolutions, we are committed to completing the [fiscal year] 2007 appropriations process in an open and orderly manner, without resorting to an omnibus strategy,' the committee chairmen said.

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