U.S. Congress Approves Stopgap Funding Legislation Before Returning Home

The U.S. Congress approved stopgap legislation to keep the federal government from shutting down as lawmakers headed home to campaign for the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

Lawmakers, having failed this year to adopt a budget, agreed on a measure, known as a continuing resolution, to keep most government programs on their current budgets until after Congress reconvenes in November. The measure was approved by the Senate on a 69-30 vote yesterday before the House voted 228-194 early today to send it to President Barack Obama.

“We may not agree on much, but I think with rare exception all 100 senators want to get out of here and get back to their states,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, before the vote.

Arizona Republican John McCain accused Democrats of shirking one of Congress’s most basic tasks -- writing a budget -- even as the government begins its new fiscal year on Oct. 1.

“We’re one day away from the end of the fiscal year and this body has not considered a single one of the annual appropriations bills,” said McCain. “The simple fact that we’re considering this continuing resolution is evidence of the majority’s inability to lead.”

The vote adds the 12 annual appropriations bills, needed to set the budgets of hundreds of federal programs, to lawmakers’ already lengthy post-election to-do list. Lawmakers have postponed a fight over President George W. Bush’s income-tax cuts that expire Dec. 31, a long-delayed food-safety bill and a defense authorization bill, among other items. The recommendations of President Barack Obama’s debt-reduction commission also are due Dec. 1.

Lawmakers also adjourned without approving Jack Lew’s nomination to head the White House budget office. His confirmation has been blocked by Louisiana Democrat Mary Landrieu, who is demanding the administration loosen its deep-water drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico.

Current Levels

Democrats rejected the administration’s request to include tens of billions of dollars in additional spending items amid concern over the federal deficit. The measure funds the executive branch through Dec. 3.

It would extend government backing of home loans up to $729,750 in most higher-cost areas of the U.S., including parts of California and New York, and up to $793,750 in some counties in Hawaii.

In 2008, lawmakers increased the size of loans that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration were allowed to insure as part of an effort to boost housing prices.

The move makes it easier for more borrowers to obtain credit. Loans too large to receive a government guarantee often require higher down payments and can carry higher interest rates. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration together backed nearly 97 percent of all home loans issued in 2009, according to Inside Mortgage Finance.

The bill is H.R. 3081.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Faler in Washington at   or bfaler@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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