After passing President Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill in record time, Congress barely gets time to catch its breath before debating another massive spending bill.
When lawmakers return Monday from a weeklong Presidents Day recess, they will have only two weeks to pass a $410 billion spending bill designed to keep most of the federal government operating for the rest of the fiscal year.
Lawmakers delayed voting on spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 because then-President Bush indicated that he would veto most of them.
So lawmakers only approved full-year bills to run the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security and legislation designed to improve military quality of life to 2009 levels. All of the other departments are operating at 2008 funding levels based on a giant stopgap package, which expires in March 6.
If Congress approves the new omnibus package containing the nine remaining fiscal 2009 appropriations bills, it will fund the government through the end of September.
But memories of the partisan struggle over the stimulus bill are fresh; only three Republicans offered their support.
"I honestly don't think there's going to be a big problem," said Craig Jennings, a federal fiscal policy analyst at OMB Watch, a government watchdog. "Congress tends to hem and haw and nibble around the edges on certain things and that tends to delay action on any bill."
But Jennings said he doesn't anticipate Republicans making much noise about the spending package and even if they did it wouldn't matter because Democrats have enough power to get it passed without their support.
President Obama is expected to introduce his budget for 2010 in early March.
Congress rarely meets its self-imposed October deadline to approve all of the spending bills to keep the government open.
Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said the challenge of passing a spending bill is easier than the stimulus measure because lawmakers aren't starting fresh.
"This is an entirely different exercise," she said.
Democratic leaders in Congress already have drawn up a blueprint for how they'd like to see the $410 billion spent. If lawmakers follow the lead of the House Budget Committee, then this is what some of the departments will get:
- Labor, Health and Education: $153.1 billion
- State Department and foreign operations: $36.6 billion
- Agriculture Department: $20.6 billion
- Commerce, Justice and Science: $56.9 billion
- Energy and Water: $33.3 billion
FOX News' Chad Pergram and FOXNews.com Stephen Clark contributed to this report.