Friday, May 4, 2001

Budget negotiators in last-minute talks agreed late yesterday to limit growth in discretionary spending in fiscal 2002 to 4 percent.
The House was expected to pass the revised measure late last night with a Senate vote scheduled for Tuesday.
The agreement revises a 5 percent growth plan announced just Wednesday and touted by the White House and Republican congressional leaders.
The decision came after the Budget Committee and Appropriations Committee were unable to resolve who would control a $5.6 billion emergency contingency fund proposed as part of $666.6 billion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2002.
Rather than settle the issue, the money was simply dropped from the budget, bringing total discretionary spending for fiscal 2002 to $661 billion.
Congressional aides said the change has little effect on the underlying budget. The amount appropriated for non-emergency items in the new deal will remain the same as it would have under Wednesdays deal, a senior Senate aide explained.
But some, including Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, heralded the change as a victory.
“Senator Lott is extremely pleased,” said spokesman Ron Bonjean.
A White House aide said the switch was good. “The president wanted 4 percent, and we have 4 percent.”
The White House aide predicted the change would win back conservative Republican votes in the House but cost the measure Democratic votes in the Senate. Still, it is expected to pass both chambers.
Unchanged in the budget deal is language that would allow entitlement spending on farms and Medicare to increase by $380 billion over the next decade.
The deal also allows Congress tax writing committees to take up legislation that would cut taxes by $1.35 trillion over 11 years.
The annual budget resolution is not binding and has been routinely ignored in the past. Democrats say this year will be no different.
For example, the budget assumes defense spending will grow by 4.5 percent from fiscal 2001 to 2002 and at an annual average of about 2.6 percent for the decade thereafter. But the Bush administration is completing a top-down review of the nations defense needs that Democrats say will lead to a 10-year, $300 billion supplemental spending request.
Similarly, budget negotiators dropped a Senate amendment that would have provided up to $250 billion in extra money for special education programs through 2011. But yesterday, the Senate went ahead and voted during its debate of an education authorization bill to spend $180 billion through 2011 on special education.
“This is a sham,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said of the budget.
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, said this years budget resolution is largely a vehicle to pave the way for the tax-cut plan.
“The spending discipline will come from the president in signing or vetoing” the annual appropriations bills that Congress will consider later this year, Mr. DeLay said.
Republican leaders had hoped to have the budget passed by both the House and Senate by yesterday afternoon, but consideration was held up in the dispute over turf between the Appropriations and Budget committees and over $28 billion set aside from 2002 through 2004 to provide health insurance to the uninsured.
The fight led by Sen. Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, was resolved by allowing the money to be spent either on providing health insurance as Mr. Smith envisions, or to offset the value of a tax credit for those purchasing health insurance, as the Bush administration has suggested.
Chris Matthews, spokesman for Mr. Smith, said the compromise reached will allow legislation providing health insurance assistance to move forward.
“This is not going to be an easy fight, but at least this will allow an opportunity,” Mr. Matthews said.

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide