After getting a late start, Congress is moving ahead in its consideration of the FY2002 spending bills with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approving several measures this week.
Commerce-Justice-State: On July 10, the House Appropriations Committee approved, by voice vote, the FY2002 Commerce, Justice, State, and Related Agencies spending bill (as-yet-unnumbered). The measure was approved after consideration of several controversial amendments.
One of those amendments, offered by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), would have prohibited the Justice Department from using funds to prosecute states that allow the medicinal use of marijuana. A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that the use of marijuana for medical purposes is not permitted under federal law; however, several states have already enacted similar laws. The amendment was defeated, by voice vote.
The committee approved, by voice vote, an amendment by Rep. David Obey (D-WI) that would allocate $1 million to the Justice Department’s General Legal Account to investigate prisoner abuse, including sexual abuse.
Overall, the $38.5 billion spending bill is $600 million above the President’s request and $1 billion more than FY2001.
Violence Against Women Act programs would receive a $103 million increase to $391 million, the same amount requested by the President. Several other programs would be level-funded, including juvenile justice programs at $298 million, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at $310 million, and the Legal Services Corporation at $330 million.
Foreign Operations: The House Appropriations Committee also approved, by voice vote, the FY2002 foreign operations spending bill (as-yet-unnumbered) on July 10. The measure may be considered by the House on July 17.
The committee avoided controversial debate over international family planning programs when Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) did not offer an amendment that would have allowed nongovernmental organizations that use their own money to perform abortions abroad or to lobby foreign governments on abortion policy to receive U.S. funds.
Under the bill, international family planning programs and the U.S. contribution to the United Nations Population Fund would be level-funded at $425 million and $25 million respectively.
The bill would provide $474 million for global HIV/AIDS programs, an increase over the $300 million appropriated last year. Of that amount, $100 million would be set aside for a U.S. contribution to an international HIV/AIDS trust fund. Funding for the Child Survival and Health Programs Fund would be increased to $1.4 billion in FY2002, an $169 million increase over last year and $396 million more than requested by the President.
Transportation: Immediately following subcommittee approval of the FY2002 transportation spending bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 12 approved, 29-0, the measure. The Senate may consider the legislation the week of July 16. Bill details will be available at that time.
Treasury-Postal: In a noncontroversial mark-up, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government on July 11 approved, by voice vote, its FY2002 draft spending bill. The full committee will consider the bill on July 17. The bill does not include a provision that would require health plans participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) to cover prescription contraceptives if they cover other prescription drugs. Such coverage has been in effect since 1998; however, Subcommittee Chair Ernest Istook (R-IL) did not include the provision in the draft version of the bill. Additionally, the President’s FY2002 budget proposed to eliminate the coverage. Due to time constraints, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) did not offer an amendment to restore the contraceptive coverage; however, she is expected to offer the amendment during the full committee mark-up. The bill retains current law prohibiting coverage of abortions under FEHBP and continues funding for a pilot project that allows federal agencies to use administrative funds to aid low-income employees with child care expenses.
VA-HUD: On July 10, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies approved its FY2002 spending bill by voice vote. The measure will be considered by the full committee on July 17. Under the bill, Homeless Assistance Grants would receive a $3million increase to $1.028 billion in FY2002, $5 million more than the President’s request. Additionally, the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS would receive $277 million in FY2002, $19 million more than last year and the same amount requested by the President.