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House Set to Debate Budget Resolution

In a party line vote of 23-18, the House Budget Committee on March 13 approved its FY2003 budget resolution (as-yet-unnumbered). Although the budget resolution is non-binding, it provides a blueprint for federal spending in the upcoming fiscal year. Under the 1974 Budget Act (P.L. 93-344), Congress is required to approve a budget resolution by April 15; however, Congress has met that deadline only five times since 1974.

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.

The plan would establish several reserve funds in the event that Congress enacts legislation to address some issues this year. One such reserve fund would provide $5 billion in FY2003 and $350 billion over 10 years for Medicare reform and prescription drug coverage. Another reserve fund would provide up to $1 billion in FY2003 for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), bringing total funding to $8.6 billion. The plan would provide $13.589 billion in FY2004-2007. That allocation would fully fund IDEA.

The budget resolution would maintain the President’s request for education spending at $56.5 billion. The plan would include $22 billion for programs authorized under the No Child Left Behind Act (P.L. 107-110), as well as a $100 million increase to $1 billion for the President’s Reading First initiative.

The plan would provide $223.5 billion in budget authority for health programs in FY2003. The resolution would provide $27.2 billion for the National Institutes of Health, a $3.9 billion increase above the FY2002 level.

The budget resolution also expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should “continue to assist, through expanded international trade, debt relief, and medical assistance to combat infectious diseases, those countries that reform their economies, promote democratic institutions, and respect basic human rights.”

The committee defeated roughly 30 amendments by Democrats, including:

  • A substitute amendment by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) that would have replaced the chair’s mark with the President’s budget. It was defeated, 0-39.
  • An amendment, by Rep. McDermott, that would have added an additional $70 billion over five years to the reserve fund for Medicare reform and prescription drugs, for a total of $420 billion. It was defeated, 18-23.
  • An amendment by Rep. McDermott that would have added $1.2 billion in FY2003 to boost child care assistance for low-income families. The amendment failed on a voice vote.
  • An amendment by Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) that would have allocated another $3 billion for education spending. It was defeated, 16-20.
  • An amendment by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) that would have provided an additional $6.7 billion over five years for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. It was defeated, 14-24.
  • An amendment by Rep. Baldwin that would have increased the maximum Pell Grant to $4,500, a $500 increase over FY2002. The amendment also would have boosted funds for Head Start. The amendment failed on a voice vote.
  • An amendment by Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR) that would have increased the federal share of the costs of teaching special education students. It failed on a voice vote.


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