If Congress votes this week to pass another continuing resolution to keep the government running until March, that will not be a bad thing.

It means the giant, pork-laden budget bill Democrats were trying to pass before they lose control of the House is dead. The roughly 6,000 earmarks listed in that bill totalled more than $8 billion, and many of those had not been vetted through hearings and debates. While it's easy to argue that $8 billion is miniscule when compared to the overall size of the $1.27 trillion budget bill, when or compared to the size of the annual budget deficit, it was offensive to see such proposals after a November election in which voters sent a clear signal that they no longer want to put up with runaway spending. If Washington ever is going to get serious about containing the federal budget, every billion has to begin to count.

The continuing resolution also means the newly elected Congress will have a chance to make its mark on the budget. In a year when spending was such a big campaign issue, it is only right that voters' wishes have an immediate impact on spending and taxation. That said, the battle in March is not likely to be easy. Some newly elected Republicans want to reform entitlement programs such as Medicare, perhaps by instituting a voucher system. Some see value in an approach that combines spending cuts with modest tax increases, while others have vowed to resist any and all tax increases. Long-treasured deductions for mortgage interest payments and charitable donations also may face cuts or elimination. By deferring the budget vote until March, Congress hasn't made things any easier, but it has assured that a newly elected set of people will be wrangling over the tough issues.

Finally, a continuing resolution does not necessarily mean important matters will get short-changed. Bureaucrats tend to be quick to invoke doomsday scenarios when spending increases are postponed or denied. This continuing resolution doesn't mean spending continues at last year's levels. For example, it includes $23 million for the new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement to begin offshore drilling inspections — a reaction to the massive Gulf oil spill earlier this year.

Both the budget bill that died last week and this continuing resolution have a familiar business-as-usual feel to them. The hope of the new Congress is that this will change; that real reforms will get spending more in line with revenues. Whether that hope becomes reality remains to be seen, but another continuing resolution would at least give those new leaders a chance early on to show what they can do.