Senate Delays Vote on Labor-HHS Budget Bill
Republican leaders in the Senate on Thursday delayed a vote on the $602 billion fiscal year 2006 Labor-HHS spending bill, citing the absence of too many members, CQ Today reports (Swindell, CQ Today, 12/15). The House on Wednesday voted 215-213 to approve the bill, which would reduce discretionary spending by about 1% to $142.5 billion.
The bill contains mandatory spending for programs, including Medicaid and Medicare, and "steep cuts" to programs related to medical training, community colleges, rural health care and state and local health departments. Discretionary spending in the version of the bill approved on Wednesday is about $1.5 billion less than last year's allocation, and NIH would receive its smallest funding increase since 1970 (California Healthline, 12/15).
A senior Republican aide on Thursday "downplayed any trouble" for the bill and said nine senators were absent for votes, including five Republicans. A Democratic Senate aide said she was unaware of any Democrats who would vote in favor of the bill.
According to CQ Today, "Republicans are eager to clear the measure for the president's signature and end a monthlong saga for the largest appropriations bill" (CQ Today, 12/15).
House and Senate Republican leaders on Thursday decided to move provisions that would allow drilling for fuel in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into the "must-pass" FY 2006 Defense Department spending bill, a decision that "may clear the way for passing a roughly $42 billion deficit reduction reconciliation bill that had been held up over ANWR language," CongressDaily reports (Cohn/Goode, CongressDaily, 12/15). Negotiations have been ongoing to reach a compromise between the House and Senate versions of the package, which include cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. The House bill (HR 4241) includes about $13.5 billion in cuts from both programs.
The House bill would cut about twice as much as the Senate bill (S 1932) from Medicaid, while the Senate would couple cuts from Medicare with nearly $11 billion in new spending on reimbursements for doctors (California Healthline, 12/13).
Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), chair of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, said he had met with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chair of the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee. Young said he and Stevens both supported moving the ANWR provision (Dodge/Seeley, Bloomberg/Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/16).
Stevens said he would not sign the conference report for the deficit reduction package until the defense bill containing ANWR achieves a cloture vote (Cohn, CongressDaily, 12/16).
A senior Republican aide said Stevens' position could cause the deficit bill to be delayed until next year (Dennis, CQ Today, 12/15).