WASHINGTON – House and Senate lawmakers agreed to extend government operations for another week beyond the budget deadline as partisans blamed one another for the impasse over 2003 fiscal year spending.
The House voted 404-7 in a roll-call vote to keep government agencies operating at 2002 spending levels until Oct. 11. The Senate approved the measure by voice vote.
The president is expected to sign the measure. Failure to enact a continuing resolution or to finish the budget process, which was supposed to be completed in time for the new fiscal year which started Oct. 1, would result in a government shutdown, something neither party would want to risk five weeks before the midterm election.
No budget votes have been completed in the House since July. Conservative Republicans refuse to support bills that exceed the president's request. Democrats say the failure to act demonstrates deep divisions in the Republican Party that could hurt it in the upcoming election.
"Meet your responsibilities instead of running away from them and trying to hide until after the election," Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., told GOP leaders in remarks on the House floor.
The Senate, on the other hand, never even approved a budget blueprint that gives guidance to lawmakers about where they want to end up on final spending bills. Without it, no controls appear on spending. Republicans suggest Senate majority Democrats want to raise spending without regard for federal deficits.
"Their intent is to spend more. Our intent is to bring fiscal responsibility to government, and most importantly protect taxpayers' money," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
An initial bill temporarily running the government had been passed last week to last until Friday. Lawmakers are talking about additional longer-term continuing resolutions that could force a lame duck session in November or December. Another politically risky proposal would extend operations until February or March when a new Congress will be in session.
Bush has proposed a total of $759 billion for the 13 spending bills. Democrats and some Republicans want to spend roughly $11 billion more.
The rest of the $2.1 trillion federal budget covers interest payments on the national debt and automatically paid benefits like Social Security and Medicare.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.