The House voted yesterday to postpone action on bills to fund most federal departments through next September, as the 107th Congress sped toward final adjournment. House members instead adopted a "continuing resolution" to fund agencies at the level of the previous fiscal year through Jan. 11, 2003, when the 108th Congress will be in session.
The resolution passed 270 to 143. The Senate was set to take up the measure within a day.
Meanwhile, comprehensive energy legislation was a casualty of the rush to wind up the post-election lame-duck session. Senate negotiators from both parties decided yesterday to reject a House proposal for a drastically pared-down energy bill, killing it for this Congress.
"It's over," said a Senate Democratic spokesman. The abbreviated version proposed by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman W.J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) would have sidestepped controversial issues such as Alaska oil drilling, electricity industry restructuring and subsidies for ethanol producers. Senators led by Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska) rejected this approach.
Sources said it was still possible that Congress would approve a separate pipeline safety measure before going home for the year.
Adjournment will leave all federal agencies except the Pentagon without new appropriations for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Foreign aid programs are also without a budget. In floor remarks, Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) called it "a pitiful performance by a pitiful Congress."
Democrats said the House-passed continuing resolution would create hardships for key agencies that need immediate funding increases. But the House defeated an effort by Democrats to add $8.1 billion for veterans health programs, Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement activities, the National Institutes of Health and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Not included in the continuing resolution was relief for doctors and hospitals affected by cuts in Medicare payments and an extension of unemployment compensation for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.