Happy (Fiscal) New Year

"Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven!....."

Happy new year! At least happy fiscal new year.

Room H310 on the third floor of the U.S. Capitol is usually known as the home to the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.

It may not be the same as Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest. But Thursday afternoon, Capitol Hill staffers converted the office into "Lounge 310" and threw a "Fiscal New Year" party. That helped mark the beginning of the government's new fiscal year on October 1.

It's like partying for policy wonks.

The government's fiscal year expired at the close of business on September 30. House and Senate appropriations subcommittees fund various federal departments and specific programs throughout the government's fiscal year.

Dozens of staffers donned pointy party hats, booze flowed and revelers tooted kazoos as the hour crept toward 6 pm Thursday. The soiree was so boisterous it could be heard near the House chamber down the corridor.

As the clock inched toward 6 pm, staffers noisily counted down the seconds just like on New Year's Eve. They then tooted the kazoos and threw confetti as they rang-in fiscal year 2011 at the stroke of six.

Unlike Times Square, there was no ball drop. Still, some Republicans have accused Democrats of dropping the ball by not passing into law any of the 12 annual appropriations bills that run the government. Lawmakers approved a stopgap measure instead Wednesday night.

Two handmade signs adorned the door of the appropriations subcommittee. One indentified the venue as "Lounge 310," a play on the office occupying room H310 of the Capitol. Another placard declared "Happy Fiscal New Year."

And all of this was next to a permanent sign painted on the door leading to the subcommittee suite.

That sign warns "Official Business Only."