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In what has become an annual tradition, House and Senate lawmakers will likely need to pass at least one continuing resolution to fund government operations. As the clock winds down on fiscal 2005, the chambers have completed work on only two of 11 spending bills.

While House leadership has yet to formally seek a CR, the chamber’s appropriators are nonetheless readying for the inevitable request.

House Appropriations spokesman John Scofield said the measure will be crafted to hold down federal spending levels.

“We are preparing a resolution that would fund government programs at the lower of House- or Senate-passed [spending levels] or last year,” Scofield said. The House passed its version of the spending bills prior to the July Fourth recess.

“We’re serious when we said we’re committed to sticking to the budget,” he later added.

Across the Capitol, Senators resumed consideration of the Commerce, Justice and science spending bill Monday night, expected to be the sixth appropriations measure that will be completed in the chamber.

A Senate Appropriations aide said the chamber is focused on completing the remaining measures and has not yet prepared a resolution to continue funding after Sept. 30.

“If we need to continue things, then we’ll do short-term CRs,” the aide noted, adding that it is too early in the process to provide any details on the resolution itself.

In the meantime, House appropriators remain optimistic that the individual spending bills will be completed in coming months, circumventing the need for a consolidated appropriations measure.

“Our preference is still to do these bills one by one,” Scofield said, noting that House Appropriations Chairman John Lewis (R-Calif.) has committed to not creating omnibus legislation.

Although Congress’ workload has increased significantly in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the additional efforts are not expected to halt the appropriations process.

Citing the passage of individual spending bills in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which similarly required lawmakers to pass significant emergency spending legislation, Scofield noted: “There’s precedent for this.”

However should both chambers fail to come to agreement on legislation including the Energy and water spending bill, the House Appropriations panel is prepared to seek full-year continuing resolutions to fund the affected agencies and programs, Scofield said.

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