Democrats Agree to Bush’s Spending Requests in Budget
Congressional Democrats on Wednesday said that they would agree to fiscal year 2008 spending levels similar to those requested by President Bush in an omnibus budget package, although they would shift funds to health care and other programs that they consider priorities, the New York Times reports (Hulse, New York Times, 12/13).
The package, which remains in negotiations, would include the FY 2008 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (HR 3043) and the 10 other unapproved FY 2008 appropriations bills. In addition, the package would limit, but not eliminate, earmarks for funds inserted by lawmakers. FY 2008 discretionary spending under the package, when combined with the Defense appropriations bill approved earlier this year, would total about $936.5 billion, $3.7 billion more than Bush requested, according to House Appropriations Committee staff members.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the package would increase funds for health care programs for children, nutrition and medical research at NIH (Weisman, Washington Post, 12/13). The package also would include an additional $3.5 billion for health care for veterans (Babington, AP/Hartford Courant, 12/13). According to CQ Today, Bush has agreed to the increase in funds for health care for veterans, provided that Democrats offset the cost in other parts of the package (CQ Today, 12/12).
The package, which could reach the House floor as early as Friday, initially would not include funds for the war in Iraq (Washington Post, 12/13). However, Senate Republicans likely would propose an amendment to the package to include $40 billion for the war in Iraq. In addition, the package likely would include $30 billion for the war in Afghanistan (Simon, Los Angeles Times, 12/13). The funds for the wars would have "no strings attached," Roll Call reports (Dennis/Pierce, Roll Call, 12/13).
House Appropriations Committee ranking member Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) said that Bush could veto the package despite the concessions on spending levels and the funds for the wars, adding, "I think we'll have enough Republicans to sustain a veto" (Washington Post, 12/13).
White House Office of Management and Budget spokesperson Sean Kevelighan said, "We are encouraged by reports of movement in the right direction. But to know whether there is a bill the president can sign, we need to see details" (Los Angeles Times, 12/13).
The House on Thursday plans to vote on a third continuing resolution that would fund most Cabinet departments and federal agencies at FY 2007 levels for an additional week. The current CR will expire on Friday (Cohn, CongressDaily, 12/13).
In related news, the House on Wednesday passed a $696 billion defense authorization bill (HR 1585) that includes provisions to help military personnel injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (Flaherty, AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/12).
The bill would extend to five years from two automatic eligibility for Department of Veterans Affairs health care services for military personnel who return from the wars (Yoest, CQ Today, 12/12).
In addition, the legislation would block proposed fee increases for TRICARE (AP/Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/12).