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Lame-duck session produces budget trouble for next Congress

WASHINGTON – When the 109th Congress adjourned for the last time on Dec. 9, it went out true to form. Criticized widely as a “do-nothing Congress” that had been in session for the fewest working days of any Congress in more than 60 years, it left nine of 11 appropriations bills unfinished. Those bills add up to approximately $460 billion in federal programs.

The funding won’t be altogether lost to the public because Congress passed a continuing resolution on the budget before adjourning. The resolution will fund government spending until Feb. 15, 2007.

Next year’s Democratic leadership figures on appropriations announced the next Monday that spending levels authorized in the continuing resolution will be extended to Oct. 1, 2007, when the 2008 fiscal year is scheduled to begin. In essence, if this plan holds, the budgetary numbers debated for FY 2007 will disappear from the books, replaced by the lowest among three funding levels: enacted funding levels from FY 2006 as carried forward in continuing resolutions, funding levels proposed in the Senate for FY 2007, or proposed in the House of Representatives for FY 2007.

The appropriations chairmen in both chambers suggested adjustments will be possible, according to an account in The Washington Post. But the lower funding levels possible through 2007 would damage some Indian
organizations, among them the National American Indian Housing Council. NAIHC Governmental Affairs Director Wendy Helgemo described the budget decisions as surprising, adding that approaches are being made to legislators about the possibility of adjustments. Dennis Daniels, acting executive director and research coordinator, said the House funding proposals NAIHC would have to live with under the announced plan would enforce serious curtailments of its programs, presumably including its training and technical assistance programs for potential Indian homeowners.

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