Democrats Request Meeting With Bush on Spending Bills
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have asked for a meeting with President Bush to reach an agreement on fiscal year 2008 appropriations bills, including one that provides funds for HHS, the New York Times reports.
The House has passed eight of the 12 regular appropriations bills, and Bush has threatened to veto five of them, saying that they include "an irresponsible and excessive level of spending."
The Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (HR 3043) is among those that the president has threatened to veto. The House last week voted 276-140 to approve the bill, with support from 53 Republicans and 223 Democrats (Pear, New York Times, 7/24).
The bill includes $151.5 billion in discretionary funds, exceeding FY 2007 discretionary spending by $7 billion and topping President Bush's FY 2008 spending request by $10.6 billion. The House bill would increase spending on health care for the uninsured by 9% above FY 2007 levels and Bush's request for FY 2008.
Total spending in the bill comes to $607 billion (California Healthline, 7/20).
House Appropriations Committee Chair David Obey (D-Wis.) said of the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, "Yes, this bill spends $10 billion more on our kids, on our workers, on our obligation to provide health care to people who don't have it, than the president does. I plead fully double guilty. I would do twice as much if I could. I would do three times as much if I could."
In a letter to Bush, Pelosi and Reid wrote that they hoped to reach an agreement with Bush on appropriations bills to "avoid a protracted battle over relatively small differences." According to the lawmakers, the disagreement involves less than 1% of the federal budget, or about $22 billion in a budget of $2.9 trillion.
Bush has proposed $933 billion in discretionary spending, and Congress has decided to provide $955 billion in such spending.
The Senate has not yet approved any spending legislation but on Tuesday plans to begin considering its first appropriations bill.
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, predicted that the disagreement between Bush and Congress might end late this year with most appropriations bills combined in an omnibus spending bill.
A significant number of Republicans have joined Democrats in support of appropriations bills passed by the House, and "some Republicans have called for more spending on biomedical research, education and other domestic programs," the Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 7/24).
According to CQ Today, some of the 147 House Republicans who last month signed a pledge circulated by the Republican Study Committee to uphold vetoes of appropriations bills "now say they won't necessarily stand behind it."
The wavering support indicates that, "although Republicans are rhetorically backing the president's efforts to challenge Democrats on spending, the details of the fight could prove uncomfortable for some GOP members, particularly those who face tough re-election contests next year," CQ Today reports (Clarke/Higa, CQ Today, 7/20).