- Just three House members attend the pro forma session
- The measure approved by the House funds the government through Tuesday
- A funding dispute threatened a possible government shutdown
- A bipartisan agreement includes an additional $2.65 billion in disaster relief needed by FEMA
A short-term spending measure to fund the federal government into next week won approval Thursday from the U.S. House and now goes to President Barack Obama's desk.
The measure was part of a bipartisan agreement intended to end a dispute over disaster relief spending that threatened to cause a partial shutdown of the government when the current fiscal year ends at midnight Friday.
Congressional approval of the measure keeps the government funded through October 4. The House will then have to consider a more comprehensive measure that would keep the government funded through November 18.
With most House members away from Washington on a one-week recess, Thursday's approval took place at a "pro forma" session involving just three House members using a procedure known as "unanimous consent."
Republican Reps. Andy Harris of Maryland and John Culberson of Texas conducted the House business, including the request for the chamber's unanimous consent of the spending plan, while Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland kept an eye on the proceedings.
The Senate approved both measures Monday. Together, they would fund the federal government for the first seven weeks of the new fiscal year.
The spending proposals contain an additional $2.65 billion in disaster relief needed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to replenish coffers depleted partly by the federal response to Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, and a series of tornadoes and wildfires this year.
The new emergency disaster funding will kick in Saturday.
Democrats and Republicans had been at odds over a GOP demand to cut spending elsewhere to offset increased disaster relief funding in the current fiscal year. FEMA ended that standoff Monday when it indicated that it has enough money to get through the final few days of the current fiscal year.
If Congress had failed to reach a new spending agreement, a partial government shutdown would have occurred with the onset of the new fiscal year on Saturday. Government shutdowns were also threatened during budget talks in the spring and the debt ceiling debate over the summer.
The short-term funding measures were necessary because Congress has failed to complete its full budget appropriations process in recent years due to a sharp partisan divide over government spending issues.
The November 18 extension expected to win final approval next week was intended to provide time to debate and pass appropriations bills for the remainder of fiscal year 2012. However, it's been more than 15 years since both chambers of Congress passed the full range of appropriations bills.
Instead, they have relied on other ways to extend spending authority, such as continuing resolutions or omnibus measures that bundle together multiple appropriations bills.