Democrats assured President Bush today that Congress will pass a "clean" temporary spending bill this week to avoid a government shutdown—pushing the bigger battle over spending into later this year.
The president this morning urged Congress to pass just such a bill—legislation that would fund government operations without any additional hikes in spending—before the end of the week. In response, Democrat Rep. Dave Obey of Wisconsin, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said he had already assured new White House Budget Director Jim Nussle that Congress would indeed pass a "clean," temporary budget bill.
"At a time when we should be looking for ways to resolve our differences, it serves no one's interest, least of all the country's," added Obey, "for the president to try to manufacture a disagreement when there is none."
Congressional aides say the short-term measure—known as a "continuing resolution"—will fund the government into November at current fiscal 2007 spending levels. The bill must pass before October 1 to keep the government running. Such a temporary fix is needed because Congress has not completed work on any of the dozen fiscal 2008 budget bills. Bush has repeatedly threatened to veto most of those bills over what he considers excessive spending. The cumulative cost of the bills exceeds the president's requests by about $23 billion.
Even with Obey's assurances, however, the short-term bill could become contentious later this week if other Democrats push to increase spending in some areas. The temporary measure will include funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Democrat John Murtha of Pennsylvania, chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. He said the temporary budget would include the $5.3 billion in additional spending for the Iraq war that Bush had recently requested for mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, which are used to shield soldiers from roadside bombs.
Both the House and the Senate are hoping to adjourn for the year by November 16. But if the temporary budget bill runs out before then and the budget showdown resumes, all bets are off.