Congress votes to keep agencies open in new fiscal year

Most departments and agencies will be funded at frozen or reduced levels until Nov. 18.

The Senate approved a measure Friday to fund most departments and government agencies at frozen or reduced levels in the face of unfinished fiscal 2006 appropriations bills.

The Senate passed the continuing resolution (H.J.RES.68) on a 53-39 vote. The House passed its version of the measure Thursday by a vote of 348-65.

The CR lasts through Nov. 18, giving lawmakers about seven weeks to wrap up work on the 2006 bills or be forced to pass another stopgap funding bill.

The CR must be signed into law by President Bush by midnight Friday to avert a government shutdown.

As drafted, the CR funds government agencies at the lowest level contained, project by project, activity by activity, in either the fiscal 2005 spending bills or House or Senate fiscal 2006 appropriations measures.

Democrats and some Republicans complained that the measure shortchanges government programs in the interim, and, if spread out over the entire fiscal year, would spend about $29 billion less than would the regular 2006 spending bills, which are capped at $843 billion.

The House has passed all 11 of its spending bills, while the Senate Thursday night was working through its ninth of 12 -- a $440 billion Defense appropriations bill.

Two bills have been signed into law -- the Legislative Branch and Interior measures -- while Congress is expected next week to send the Homeland Security measure to the president's desk.