Senate Committee Approves Appropriations Bills
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 28-0 to approve a $606 billion fiscal year 2007 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (HR 5647), as well as three other FY 2007 appropriations bills, CQ Today reports.
The Labor-HHS-Education bill includes $142.8 billion in discretionary spending -- $5 billion more than President Bush requested and $1.3 billion more than FY 2006 levels -- with the remainder allocated for Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlement programs. The legislation includes $64.2 billion for HHS.
Under the bill, NIH would receive $28.5 billion, $200 million more than Bush requested and $220 million more than FY 2006 levels (Wayne, CQ Today, 7/20). In addition, the legislation includes more than $1.9 billion to expand community health centers (Posner, CongressDaily, 7/21).
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education and Related Agencies, criticized the bill, which he said represents "the disintegration of the appropriate federal role in health, education and worker protections," adding, "NIH, the so-called jewel of the federal government, is $3.78 billion below the inflation-adjusted FY 2005 level" (Wayne, CQ Today, 7/20).
The committee also approved a $94.3 billion FY 2007 Military Construction-VA appropriations bill (HR 5385) that does not include a proposal from Bush to increase TRICARE fees for some veterans, CQ Today reports.
Bush had requested an increase in TRICARE premiums for some veterans and their families, as well as higher enrollment fees, deductibles and prescription drug copayments for some military retirees. The legislation includes $16.3 billion for military construction; $77.9 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs, which includes spending for health care for veterans; and $143 million for veterans for other agencies (Yoest, CQ Today, 7/20).
The approval of the final four appropriations bills marks the first time in 18 years that the committee has passed them prior to the August recess and allows time for Congress to complete a budget by Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins, the Washington Post reports. However, Congress likely will not address some of the largest domestic spending issues -- such as additional funds for health and education programs sought by some moderate Republican lawmakers -- until after the November election.
In addition, Republican and Democratic lawmakers "now say the spending bills may be rolled into one big package after the midterm election," the Post reports (Murray, Washington Post, 7/21).