Lawmakers Push To Finalize Federal Budget Ahead of Vote Next Week
The House early next week likely will vote on a more than $500 billion omnibus budget package that would include the fiscal year 2008 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (HR 3043) and the 10 other unapproved FY 2008 appropriations bills, CQ Today reports (Higa/Clarke, CQ Today, 12/13).
The package would include FY 2008 spending levels similar to those requested by President Bush, with funds shifted to health care and other programs that Democrats consider priorities. 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 (California Healthline, 12/13).
The package would include a 14% increase in spending for health care for veterans, but spending for labor, health care and education programs, "most sensitive for many Democrats, would be effectively frozen at 2007 levels, albeit still nearly $4 billion above Mr. Bush's request," the Wall Street Journal reports (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 12/13).
Democrats on Thursday "struggled ... to cut hundreds of federal programs" as they sought to complete work on the package, but "accord with the White House remained elusive, even though negotiations went ahead on the assumptions that Democrats would largely accept President Bush's strict budget for domestic programs and that Bush would ease up a bit if additional funding for Iraq is approved," the AP/Houston Chronicle reports.
According to the AP/Chronicle, the "White House does not believe the additional veterans money is needed and has previously threatened a veto if such money is not accompanied by cuts elsewhere" (Taylor, AP/Houston Chronicle, 12/14). However, according to CongressDaily, the "Bush administration is sending signals it might be able to accept" the package, despite previous threats to veto any proposals that would exceed the spending levels that Bush requested (Cohn, CongressDaily, 12/14).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday during a press conference said that Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate remain "engaged in a four-way negotiation on what the bill will be." In addition, she said, "We would love to have it up on the Internet over the weekend and in the Rules Committee on Monday and on the floor on Tuesday" (Bolton, The Hill, 12/13).
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that the package could move to the floor as early as Monday (Higa/Clarke, CQ Today, 12/13).
Meanwhile, the House and Senate on Thursday passed a third continuing resolution that will fund most Cabinet departments and federal agencies at FY 2007 levels until Dec. 21. The current CR will expire on Dec. 14 (AP/Houston Chronicle, 12/14).
"With Democrats beginning to cave to the White House on energy and spending bills, and with their hopes of expanding a popular children's health program all but dashed," Bush this week has "scored three political victories" that "underscore the surprising amount of clout" he "wields against a Democratic-run Congress," the New York Times reports.
However, "winning may have come at a price," as Bush has opted for vetoes over negotiations -- a decision that has further "deepened the already deep divide between himself and lawmakers, making compromise on other matters ... more difficult," according to the Times (Gay Stolberg, New York Times, 12/14).
C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" on Thursday included a discussion with Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), a member of the House Budget Committee, about the omnibus budget package ("Washington Journal," C-SPAN, 12/13).
Video of the segment is available online.
In addition, PBS' "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on Thursday included a discussion with Pelosi about the package and other issues (Ifill, "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 12/13).
A transcript and audio of the segment are available online. Video will be available Friday afternoon.