Senate leaders have announced plans to begin combining unfinished annual spending bills into packages.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said “bundling” is necessary, given the few legislative days left to complete work on FY12 appropriations measures. A Continuing Resolution (CR) funding the federal government expires on Nov. 18.

Majority Leader Reid said the first mini-package will include three bills: Agriculture, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and Commerce-Justice-Science.

With the CR scheduled to expire in less than 40 days and none of the 12 regular appropriations bills enacted, there are concerns about the threat of a government shutdown before Thanksgiving. Adding to the pressure, the House is scheduled to be in recess during the week of Oct. 17 and the Senate the week of Oct. 24.

Debate on the first package of bills is expected to take most of the week of Oct. 17. Reid and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both said they have agreed to a process that will allow members to offer numerous amendments.