- - Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Senate panel has approved a foreign aid budget for next year that cuts U.S. assistance to Pakistan and Egypt.

By voice vote Tuesday, a Senate Appropriations subcommittee approved the overall bill totaling $52.1 billion. That is $2.6 billion less than what President Obama requested and $1.2 billion below current spending.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, cited the strained U.S. relations with Pakistan for reducing aid and imposing restrictions on $1 billion in assistance. Pakistan has closed supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan, angering the United States and lawmakers.

The panel also cut $5 million from the $250 million in economic assistance for Egypt. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it equaled the amount the U.S. spent to get nongovernment workers out earlier this year.


Panel approves increase in airline security fee

A Senate panel Tuesday approved a $2.50 increase in airline security fees that would double the per-passenger fee for those taking nonstop flights.

The move by the Senate Appropriations Committee would increase the fee on a nonstop round-trip flight from $5 to $10. Fees on a one-way, nonstop ticket would increase from $2.50 to $5. Passengers who change planes to reach their destinations would continue to pay $5 each way.

A similar move last year failed because of opposition by Republicans in the House and the current effort faces long odds in an election year.

A move by panel Republicans to kill the higher fee — which is attached to a homeland security measure funding the Transportation Security Administration — failed on a 15-15 vote.

The author of the proposal, Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, said the current fee structure only covers about one-fourth of TSA’s airport security costs and that people who fly should bear a greater cost of TSA’s $7.6 billion budget — rather than taxpayers as a whole.

Supporters of the fee point out that airlines are layering fee after fee upon their customers and that baggage fees in particular place a greater strain on TSA resources because people are checking far more luggage that needs to be screened at TSA checkpoints.


Lawmakers to end program that provides tuition waivers

SPRINGFIELD — After years of bad publicity over cronyism and clout, the Illinois Legislature has voted to end a longstanding program that allowed each lawmaker to hand out taxpayer-funded college tuition waivers to students.

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