House lawmakers on Friday passed a 72-hour budget fix, forcing members to return next week to finalize a longer-term proposal.
House leaders had hoped the Senate could reach an agreement by week's end on a medium-length budget bill that would fund the government at fiscal 2010 levels, allowing members of the lower chamber to adjourn for the year.
But with no Senate agreement in sight, House leaders chose to pass a three-day continuing resolution (CR) and return Tuesday morning to finalize the deal. The CR was approved by voice vote.
House Democrats have demonstrated that they could pass a CR to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2011, while the Senate couldn't extract such a compromise.
A short-term bill that runs through February or March, whatever is agreed to in the Senate, leaves House Democrats with just about no choice but to vote for a bill that will give Republicans control over the CR's spending levels in the 112th Congress.
"Members understand we are at the mercy of Senate Republicans," a Democratic leadership aide told The Hill tonight.
House Republicans are aiming to cut back spending to fiscal 2008 levels.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who took to the chamber floor to announce the revised schedule, acknowledged the decision wouldn't be popular.
"There are at least 434 of my colleagues who are not happy about anything right now," Hoyer said. "I want you to know I will make that a unanimous judgment. I'm not happy, either."
Democrats had hoped to pass a much broader spending bill to fund the government through fiscal year 2011. But faced with a lack of Republican support, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt Fight over Biden agenda looms large over Virginia governor's race MORE (D-Nev.) scrapped that $1.1 trillion bill Thursday in favor of a shorter-term fix, keeping spending at current levels.
Reid's office said Friday that leaders from both parties are still discussing a medium-length budget bill, which will allow lawmakers to return to the issue early next year. The length of the patch has yet to be determined, according to a Reid aide.
Under current law, funding for the federal government expires Saturday at midnight. The House-passed bill would extend that window through Tuesday. The Senate is expected to take up the House bill before Saturday night.
This post was updated at 6:11 p.m.