Senate Votes 65-28 To Approve Omnibus Spending Measure
The Senate on Thursday voted 65-28 to approve an $820 billion omnibus spending measure (HR 2673), including seven bills authorizing funding for federal agencies for fiscal year 2004, which began Oct. 1, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, required spending for Medicare and Medicaid comprise "much" of the total cost, with Congress determining about $328 billion in other spending (Hulse, New York Times, 1/23). In addition to funding for 11 government departments, Washington, D.C., and foreign aid, the measure includes "[s]ome of the biggest domestic spending increases" for veterans' health care and biomedical research, the Washington Post reports (Dewar, Washington Post, 1/23). Health-related funding in the omnibus includes:
- $139 billion for HHS and the departments of Labor and Education;
- $28 billion for biomedical research at NIH, an increase of 4% (Washington Post graphic);
- $28.66 billion for veterans' health services, an increase of 11%; and
- $2.4 billion for international AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria initiatives (AP/Chicago Tribune, 1/23).
This marks the second consecutive year that Congress has failed to pass appropriations until months after the fiscal year began, according to the Post. Senate approval came after 16 Democrats and "most" Republicans voted 61-32 to end debate and force a final vote, the Post reports (Washington Post, 1/23). On Tuesday, efforts to bring a final vote on the legislation failed to receive the 60 votes required for approval. Opponents of the omnibus bill raised concerns about provisions on media company ownership, overtime rules and nation-of-origin labels on meat and produce (California Healthline, 1/21). Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said those issues "will not go away," adding that Democrats will "very likely" try to change the measures that they oppose in upcoming class-action tort reform legislation (Cohn/Davis, CongressDaily, 1/22). President Bush, who is expected to sign the bill, said in a statement that he is "pleased" with the measure, according to the Los Angeles Times (Simon, Los Angeles Times, 1/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.