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House Approves FY2003 Budget; Senate Readies Budget For Floor

Congress made progress on the FY2003 budget resolution this week, with the House approving it and the Senate Budget Committee marking up the measure. However, it is unlikely Congress will meet its April 15 deadline for final approval.

Highly partisan debate led to the House’s approval of the FY2003 budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 353) by a vote of 221-209 on March 20. The House Budget Committee approved the resolution on March 13 (see The Source, 3/15/02).

By a vote of 222-206, the House adopted a rule prohibiting all amendments to the budget resolution. Under the $2.158 trillion plan approved by the committee, discretionary spending for FY2003 would be set at $759 billion, a $50 billion increase over FY2002. The plan largely mirrors the President’s request and would give the Pentagon its largest increase in two decades while holding spending growth in the rest of the government below the rate of inflation. Non-defense discretionary spending would total $366 billion, an increase of 1.1 percent from FY2002.

Senate Committee Action
On March 21, the Senate Budget Committee approved the FY2003 budget resolution by a party line vote of 12-10. As approved by the committee, the resolution would set discretionary spending at $795 billion, with a projected $92 billion deficit in FY2003. The Senate will consider the FY2003 budget resolution after the spring recess.

Like the House budget resolution, the Senate plan would establish several reserve funds in the event that Congress enacts legislation to address some issues this year. One reserve fund would provide $500 billion over 10 years for a prescription drug benefit, expanding health insurance coverage, and Medicare modernization. Another reserve fund would provide up to $2.5 billion in FY2003 for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The plan also would provide $90.6 billion in FY2003-2012, until total funding for IDEA is achieved.

The Senate plan would provide a $6.8 billion increase over the FY2002 funding level for discretionary education programs. The plan would include $24.6 billion for programs authorized under the No Child Left Behind Act (P.L. 107-110).

The plan also would provide $201.2 billion in budget authority for health programs in FY2003. The resolution would match the President’s request of $27.2 billion for the National Institutes of Health, a $3.9 billion increase above the FY2002 level.

Under last year’s tax cut (P.L. 107-16), the child tax credit would be doubled from $500 to $1,000 over ten years: the credit increases to $600 in 2001 through 2004, $700 in 2005, $800 in 2009, and $1,000 in 2010. When the law expires in 2011, the credit will be reduced to $500. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) offered an amendment that would provide additional funding to keep the child tax credit at the $1,000 level after 2011. The amendment was defeated, 12-10. However, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-SD) offered an amendment that contained nonbinding language, saying that the Senate Finance Committee should pass a law to extend the child tax credit at the $1,000 limit but that such legislation should be offset by closing corporate tax loopholes. The amendment passed on a 22-0 vote.

The committee approved several amendments, by voice vote, including:

  • An amendment by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) that would call for the elimination of a 15 percent cut in home health care payments resulting from the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and an extension of a 10 percent bonus payment for rural Medicare home health providers.
  • An amendment by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) that would express the Senate’s support for increases in the Child Care and Development Fund in order to meet work requirements under welfare, and to permit states to expand child care programs to meet the needs of lower-income working families.
  • An amendment by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) that would set aside funding for the enactment of mental health parity legislation.
  • A sense of the Senate amendment by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) that would call for additional funding to provide affordable health care for the uninsured.
  • A sense of the Senate amendment by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) that any legislation that would produce cost savings on prescription drugs be used to boost the size of the resolution’s $500 billion reserve fund for a prescription drug benefit under Medicare.
  • An amendment by Sen. Feingold that would call for a maximum Pell grant award of $4,500.

 

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