House passes another stopgap spending measure

The House Thursday passed another continuing resolution keeping the government operating at current levels through next Friday.

The bill passed easily on a 404-7 vote, although House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, voted against the proposal because it lacked language to exclude one-time spending carried over from fiscal 2002.

The White House has already said it intends to use its authority under current law to subtract $16 billion in one-time spending from 2002 in an attempt to keep the annualized costs below Nussle's budget resolution, but Nussle continues to insist on specific language.

"I hope in future bills we can recognize a better way" to write the CR, said Nussle.

House Appropriations Committee ranking member David Obey, D-Wis., attacked Nussle for "only now understanding what a mighty mess" Nussle's budget resolution has caused. "There are a lot of things that [House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla.] and I don't like, but the fact is when you get prevented from doing our work ... we're stuck with only one alternative," Obey said.

With only one week to go before Congress is set to adjourn, there still is no obvious budget endgame strategy in sight. While House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., is floating the option of keeping the House in session one day a week until the November elections to pass continuing resolutions, Democrats say they object to such a strategy and will try to force the entire House to remain in session by refusing to grant any unanimous consent agreements to bring CRs to the floor.

Hastert's idea "implies a level of complicity in action" that Democrats will not allow, said a senior House Democratic aide. "There's only one exit strategy - to do the work they should have done" this summer, said the aide.

Hastert's idea also received a cold reception from Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., who said Thursday that if Congress stays in session in some fashion until Election Day, "it will be a farce."

Lott said people may come in for a week, but "no one will be here," noting that what was really going on was "shadow boxing."

Lott said the two chambers should "split the difference" on the funding level for a long-term CR that would last until mid- January or February and get out of town.

"The House needs to decide when they're leaving and pass a CR and send it over to the Senate and say, 'We're done,' " Lott said. "The Senate won't be around two days after that."