House Sends Omnibus Budget Package to Senate for Vote
The House on Monday voted 253-154 to approve a $516 billion omnibus budget package that "hews closely to the White House's budget limits but shifts billions of dollars to the Democratic majority's priorities," the Los Angeles Times reports (Simon, Los Angeles Times, 12/18).
The package includes the fiscal year 2008 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill and the 10 other unapproved FY 2008 appropriations bills (Dilanian, USA Today, 12/18). Forty-one Republicans voted in favor of the package, and eight Democrats voted against the proposal.
The House also voted 206-201 to add $31 billion to the package for the war in Afghanistan (Cusack, The Hill, 12/17). According to the AP/Hartford Courant, the House used the "unusual legislative two-step" vote to help the package move "through a gauntlet of anti-war Democrats and Republicans unhappy with the measure's price tag and the process that produced it" (Taylor, AP/Hartford Courant, 12/18).
The package moves to the Senate, with a vote expected on Tuesday. The Senate likely will add $40 billion to the package for the war in Iraq (Miller/Dinan, Washington Times, 12/18). In the event that the Senate approves the package with the additional funds, the proposal would return to the House for a final vote (Los Angeles Times, 12/18).
The package includes $600.1 billion in total spending and $145.1 billion in discretionary spending for the Labor-HHS-Education section.
According to CQ Today, the discretionary spending, although about $5.6 billion less than the amount previously approved by Congress but vetoed by President Bush, "reflects Democratic priorities more than Bush's." The package eliminates spending reductions that Bush had requested for several departments and agencies and does not include an increase in spending for abstinence-only sex education that Bush had requested.
The discretionary spending includes $307 million in emergency spending to finance a program for emergency workers who have developed health problems related to the collapse of the World Trade Center, among other programs.
Under the package, NIH would receive $29 billion, which includes $295 million in funds for a Department of State program that finances treatment and prevention programs for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other epidemics abroad. CDC would receive $6.38 billion, which includes an additional $18 million for infectious disease programs.
In addition, the Social Security Administration would receive $9.7 billion for administrative costs, a $451 million increase from FY 2007 "intended to help it reduce a backlog of thousands of disability claims," according to CQ Today (Wayne, CQ Today, 12/17).
The package also includes:
- $3.36 billion for programs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration;
- $335 million for programs at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality that includes $30 million for clinical effectiveness research;
- $6.95 billion in funds for programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration that includes an additional $77 million for community health centers, an additional $15.6 million for "health professions" programs and $36 million for programs that address developmental disorders such as autism;
- $302 million for graduate medical education programs at children's hospitals; and
- $809 million for AIDS Drug Assistance Programs.
The package also includes $91 billion in total spending and $19.1 billion in discretionary spending for FDA and the USDA. The discretionary spending includes $1 billion in emergency spending, with $400 million for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.
Under the package, FDA would receive $1.7 billion for administrative costs, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service would receive $930 million, an increase from FY 2007 "intended to address vacancies in federal meat inspector positions, among other things," CQ Today reports (Kroepsch, CQ Today, 12/17).
Health care and other programs for veterans would "see a considerable boost" under the package, according to CQ Today. The package includes $108.4 billion in discretionary spending, about $3.2 billion more than Bush had requested, for the Military Construction-VA section.
The discretionary spending includes $3.7 billion in emergency spending that Bush could decide whether to spend. Most of the remainder of the discretionary spending would fund medical and prosthetic research, treatments for injured and sick veterans and new medical facilities in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system.
In addition, the package would provide $124 million to hire 1,800 additional disability claims processors to reduce the backlog of claims filed by veterans (Yoest, CQ Today, 12/17).
"Despite complaints from conservative Republicans that the measure was bloated and unacceptable," Bush on Monday "offered guarded praise for the legislation," and Democrats "said they expected he would sign a final version, despite some dispute over the details in this one," the New York Times reports (Hulse, New York Times, 12/18). A senior Bush administration official said that the president would sign the package, provided that the final version includes $70 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without conditions (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 12/17).
According to Sean Kevelighan, spokesperson for the White House Office of Management and Budget, Bush would veto the package without the funds for the wars (Clarke/Higa, CQ Today, 12/17).