The House has approved a temporary spending measure that would avert a shutdown of federal agencies on Oct. 1 and keep federal construction and other programs operating through the first six months of fiscal year 2013.

House passage of the continuing resolution (CR) came on Sept. 13, on a 223-196 vote. The next step is action by the Senate, which is scheduled to hold a procedural vote on the measure on Sept. 19.

The CR, which would extend to March 27, 2013, provides a tiny 0.6% funding increase over 2012 levels for domestic discretionary programs, which include nearly all construction accounts.

But some key Senate Democrats criticized the measure, stating that  it falls $620 million short of the amounts contained for highway and transit programs in the recently enacted Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). It appears, however, that the earliest Congress might consider increases from the CR's amounts would be in the expected post-election lame-duck session.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) wrote House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Sept. 13 asking him to add $620 million to the CR to bring surface-transportation programs’ budgets up to the amounts provided in MAP-21.

The three senators—who chair the committees that oversee highway, transit and highway safety programs—said in their letter, “For the businesses and the working people of this country, for the drivers of cars and trucks, for the users of public transportation, for the safety of our families in this country, and for this economy, these funding cuts must be restored for fiscal year 2013.”

John Horsley, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials executive director, also urged Senate and House leaders to boost highways, transit and safety to MAP-21 levels.

In a letter to Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Horsley said, “When you return following the November elections, and conclude action on Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations, we strongly urge you to honor the funding levels established in law by MAP-21, which merely maintain baseline funding for the first year.”

In all, the stopgap funds domestic discretionary programs at the annual rate of $1.047 trillion set in last year’s Budget Control Act. That amount is $5.9 billion above the enacted fiscal 2012 base appropriations and $19 billion above the $1.028 trillion recommended in the FY 2013 budget resolution that the House passed in April.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) said, "This CR is a good-faith effort to provide limited but fair  funding for government programs." Rogers also said the bill "does not contain extensive or controversial policy riders..."