Senate Approves Budget Spending Outline
On a 53-47 vote "largely along party lines," the Senate yesterday passed a fiscal year 2002 budget resolution that "aims to restrain spending" on domestic programs, including health initiatives, to a 4% increase, the Washington Post reports (Kessler, Washington Post, 5/11). The budget, which includes an 11-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut, "sets a target of $661 billion for discretionary spending "(Hook, Los Angeles Times, 5/11). In addition, the budget plan provides $300 billion over 10 years for Medicare reform, including a prescription drug benefit. The proposal also earmarks $28 billion to help provide health coverage for the uninsured, $71 billion for tax credits to help low-income families purchase health insurance and $8 billion to "allow certain children to qualify for Medicaid" (California Healthline, 5/10). Five Democrats -- Sens. John Breaux (D-La.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Zell Miller (R-Ga.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) -- joined 48 Republicans to approve the budget package, while Sens. Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.) and Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) "broke ranks" with Republicans and opposed the measure (Washington Post, 5/11).
According to the New York Times, Breaux served as the "power broker," delivering "enough Democratic votes" to approve the budget and help President Bush move his agenda through a tightly divided Congress (Rosenbaum, New York Times, 5/11). Breaux said, "Is it a perfect document? Of course not. But does it advance the cause of government in a democracy that is almost evenly divided between the two parties? I think the answer is yes, it does" (Orin, New York Post, 5/11). The House passed the budget outline Wednesday (Los Angeles Times, 5/11). Still, the non-binding budget resolution does not have the force of law, and in the past lawmakers have "frequently ignored" similar measures during tax and spending negotiations (Washington Post, 5/11). The Los Angeles Times reports that Congress will likely provide "bigger increases" for biomedical research and "selected other areas" (Los Angeles Times, 5/11).