The 2008 budget year ended yesterday, but Congress hasn’t approved a single one of a dozen annual appropriations bills needed to keep the federal government functioning on a day-to-day basis. Hence the $630 billion stop-gap measure, nearly the size of the failed Wall Street bailout. It passed the House on a 370-68 vote even though, as Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., candidly admitted, “very few people have any idea what’s in it.” Cornered House members had less than 24 hours to review the 357-page bill and 752 pages of accompanying material before being forced to either pass it – or shut down most of the federal government today.

One thing the continuing resolution is full of is earmarks, none of which were debated or voted on in public. The House Budget Committee’s final tally is 2,760 earmarks totaling $19.1 billion (including presidential requests). None were publicly vetted through the regular legislative process or even posted on the committee’s web site prior to the vote. And, since this temporary spending bill expires in five months, the whole dysfunctional process will begin anew in March – unless there’s a major shakeup of Congress in November.

I’m not expecting that, whatever happens.