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US House of Representatives Approves Government Funding Measure

A measure to fund U.S. government operations past the November elections and into next year has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives by a margin of 370 to 58. VOA's Dan Robinson reports that action on the continuing resolution, which must also win Senate approval, was a priority for majority Democrats who, with minority Republicans, are also dealing with proposed legislation on the U.S. financial crisis.

Congress has failed to act on all but one of the 12 appropriations bills for the 2009 fiscal year, so lawmakers have had to pass temporary funding measures in recent months to keep the government running.

The legislation approved on Wednesday would keep things going at 2008 fiscal year levels until March of next year. Included in the measure are three regular 2009 spending bills for the Pentagon, military veterans and homeland security.

A shorter time frame for funding the government would have increased the likelihood that lawmakers would have to return for an extra session after the November 4 general elections.

That is something majority Democrats prefer not to do, but a course President Bush favored.

Republicans complained about the Democrat's procedural tactics, and items added to the legislation that Republicans say were not subject to debate on the floor of the House of Representatives.

"Instead of a record of openness, the Democrats have delivered the most closed down, sit down [and] shut up record in the history of this country," said Republican Doc Hastings, a Representative from Washington state.

Responding for the Democrats, Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern blamed what he called Republican "partisan tactics" for slowing the legislative process this year.

"Every time the Republicans had an opportunity to act like statesman and do the business of the American people, they decided to do the opposite - to play partisan games in attempts to score political point," he said. "Instead of acting like honest brokers, they decided to demagogue these bills until there was no ability for the House [of Representatives] to act on them."

The legislation also includes $22 billion for disaster relief in the United States, focused on the storm-stricken U.S. Gulf coast.

Also included is $365 million in economic aid to the country of Georgia, $100 million in aid for Haiti, and $100 million for global emergency food aid.

Minority Republicans won a concession when Democrats, facing White House opposition, dropped efforts to restrict new offshore oil drilling. As a result, a ban on oil and gas drilling off the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts, that has been in place since 1982, will expire on September 30.

By pushing through the government funding bill, Democrats free themselves to concentrate on the issue that has dominated U.S. attention - the proposed $700 billion financial institution rescue plan.

But this means major appropriations work will be left to a new Congress, and a new president - either Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama, early next year.