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House Committee Approves Two Spending Bills; Contraceptive Coverage Restored

On July 17, the House Appropriations Committee approved two more FY2002 appropriations bills-Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government; and Veterans’ Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.

Treasury-Postal: After voting overwhelmingly to reinstate contraceptive coverage for federal employees, the House Appropriations Committee approved, by voice vote, the FY2002 Treasury-Postal spending bill (as-yet-unnumbered).

As approved by the subcommittee last week, the legislation did not contain language that would require health plans participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) to cover prescription contraceptives if they cover other prescription drugs. Contraceptive coverage for federal employees has been in place since 1998, but Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) did not include the provision in his subcommittee mark.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) offered an amendment to restore such coverage, arguing that the coverage had not increased premiums according to the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees FEHBP. Rep. Istook opposed the amendment citing costs. The amendment was approved, 40-21.

The committee rejected, 26-33, an amendment by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) that would have allowed abortion coverage under FEHBP.

The House will consider the bill next week.

VA-HUD: The House Appropriations Committee approved, by voice vote, the FY2002 VA-HUD spending bill (as-yet-unnumbered) after considering several controversial amendments.

One of those amendments would have provided an overall $1 billion increase for the bill by reducing the recently enacted tax cut (P.L. 107-16). Under the amendment, the top tax bracket would have been increased from the current 38.6 percent to 39.1 percent. The amendment failed by a vote of 24-29.

Under the bill, Homeless Assistance Grants would receive a $3 million 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.

The bill may be considered by the House next week.

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