House vote averts government shutdown

The House passed Friday a spending package that will allow government to operate past September and includes the conference report for the first of 12 spending bills for 2010.

The measure passed 217-190, largely along party lines. It includes a continuing resolution that was needed to avoid a government shutdown after Wednesday, the last day of the fiscal year, since none of the 12 appropriations bills have yet to be signed into law.

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The measure passed Friday includes the conference report for the $4.7 billion legislative branch appropriations bill, which seeks to fund lawmakers' offices and other operations on Capitol Hill.

House Democratic leaders said the package was the easiest way to make sure government keeps running.

"Our principal obligation on this bill is simply to keep the government open," said House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) on the House floor. "We’ve got enough problems in the economy right now without adding to people’s uncertainty."

Obey noted that Republicans in 2006 used a similar maneuver, combining a continuing resolution with a Defense spending bill.

But Republicans charged Democrats with attaching the continuing resolution to the legislative branch bill to try to force Republicans to either vote for a spending bill they don't like or for a government shutdown.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said that more crucial spending bills, such as ones for the Pentagon and the Homeland Security Department, should be the lawmakers' priority.

"Our country is facing the most daunting economic, social, and security challenges in decades, yet the Democrat majority is putting funding for their own offices ahead of these critical issues," Lewis said in a statement.

The Senate is expected to vote on the conference report and the continuing resolution early next week.