December 10, 2003 - Washington Post: No Final Senate Action on Omnibus Spending Bill that includes funding for Peace Corps

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No Final Senate Action on Omnibus Spending Bill that includes funding for Peace Corps

No Final Senate Action on Omnibus Spending Bill that includes funding for Peace Corps

No Final Action on Omnibus Spending Bill This Year

By CQ Staff
Congressional Quarterly
Tuesday, December 9, 2003; 2:42 PM

The Senate will wait until January to consider the $820 billion measure that wraps up spending decisions for the current fiscal year. The legislation passed the House on Dec. 8 but has been under heavy attack from both Republican conservatives and mainstream Democrats. Many in the GOP say the bill's $328 billion in new discretionary spending is too loaded with "pork," while Democrats - and some Republicans - continue to fume that too many victories were awarded to President Bush over the wishes of the rank and file.

A vote limiting debate on the measure is set for 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 20, the day the House and Senate convene for the second session of the 108th Congress. Despite requests for action from the White House, there is little appetite among Republican leaders for a lengthy spending debate during the holiday season.

The House adopted the huge conference report (HR 2673) despite criticism by Democrats and grumbling among House conservatives over domestic spending levels and "earmarks" for members' projects. The vote was 242-176, with 38 GOP lawmakers voting "no" and 58 Democrats joining a majority of Republicans in support.

The omnibus, which combines seven appropriations bills into one measure, includes fiscal 2004 funding for programs under the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs and the District of Columbia.

The House's top Democratic appropriator, David R. Obey of Wisconsin, complained Dec. 8 that the omnibus contained more than 7,000 lawmaker earmarks, including $860 million in the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education section alone. Obey said the spending is directed primarily to the districts of influential appropriators and the congressional leadership, draining funds from national priorities.

"If you want to vote for this stuff, you are voting for a system to give the lion's share to just a few big shots and table scraps to the rest of the country," Obey said. "That is what you get to take home."

But House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said lawmakers have a "fundamental right" to determine how federal revenue is spent. "This Congress can state through earmarks the importance of spending in certain parts of this country," DeLay told the House. "We don't have to wait around for some bureaucrat to decide whether it's important or not. I'm not ashamed of the fact that there are earmarks in this bill."

DeLay also defended the spending levels in the bill against attacks from both sides of the aisle by arguing that total discretionary budget authority is being held to the $786 billion ceiling set by the fiscal 2004 budget resolution. But when the House voted on the omnibus, the majority that allowed its adoption was provided by Democrats whose support offset a mini-revolt by GOP conservatives.

A continuing resolution that expires Jan. 31 is keeping the government operating at fiscal 2003 spending levels.

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Story Source: Washington Post

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Congress; Appropriations



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