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Congress Makes Progress on FY2002 Spending Bills

This week, Congress moved forward with its consideration of the FY2002 appropriations bills. Conferees completed work on several conference reports, and the Senate cleared two bills, readying them for conference. To date, 5 of the 13 FY2002 spending bills have been sent to the President—Energy and Water, Interior, Legislative Branch, Military Construction, and Treasury-Postal. The House and Senate have now passed all but one of the bills—the defense appropriations bill. The remaining measures are in conference. The fourth continuing resolution will expire on November 16.

District of Columbia (D.C.): On November 7, the Senate approved, 75-24, the FY2002 D.C. appropriations bill (H.R. 2944), sending it to conference with the House bill, which was approved on September 25 (see The Source, 9/26/01, p. 1).

Like the House bill, the Senate bill would allow the use of local funds to implement a D.C. law to provide health insurance benefits for unmarried domestic partners of D.C. employees; however, the use of federal funds would be prohibited. Although the D.C. City Council approved the benefits package in 1992, Congress has continually prohibited the use of local and federal funds to implement the law.

Additionally, the Senate measure would allow the use of local funds to establish needle exchange programs, while continuing the ban on the use of federal funds for these programs. Sen. George Allen (R-VA) offered an amendment that would have prohibited the use of local funds; however, the amendment was defeated, 53-47. The House bill would prohibit the use of local and federal funds for needle exchange programs.

Both measures would prohibit the use of local and federal funds for abortion coverage for low-income women on Medicaid. Exceptions are made in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment.

Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education: After a slight delay, the Senate on November 6, approved, 89-10, the FY2002 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill (S. 1536), sending the bill to conference with the House. Conferees will have to iron out disagreements over funding levels, as well as a provision adopted by the Senate pertaining to mental health parity (see The Source, 11/2/01, p. 1). The House passed its version on October 11 (see The Source, 10/12/01).

Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development (VA-HUD): The House gave its approval, 401-18, to the conference report for the FY2002 VA-HUD appropriations bill (H.R. 2620) on November 8. The same day, the Senate approved it by a vote of 87-7.

The final bill includes $1.1 billion for homeless assistance grants, a $98 million increase over FY2001 and $100 million more than the President’s request. Both the House and Senate bills provided $1 billion for the programs. The final measure also includes $277 million for the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program, a $19 million increase over last year and the same amount requested by the President. Both the House and Senate bills provided the same level.

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