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Senate Passes FY2002 Budget Resolution

After a full week of highly partisan debate, the Senate on April 6 voted 65-35 to approve the FY2002 budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 83). The resolution was approved by the House last week (see The Source, 3/30/01). Debate centered around the size of the President’s proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut, leading to intense negotiations between the Republican leadership and several moderate Republicans who had voiced opposition to the size of the tax cut. In the end, Vice President Dick Cheney case two tie-breaking votes.

While the budge resolution is nonbonding and does not require the signature of the President, it sets forth the spending blueprint for the coming fiscal year. There are several differences between the House-passed and the Senate-passed versions that will have to be resolved in conference after the spring recess.

During debate in the Senate, a number of amendments were offered to highlight philosophical differences between the parties on tax cuts, education, and health care. Vice President Cheney case his first tie-breaking vote on April 3 in order to win approval of an amendment by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). The amendment would establish a reserve fund of up to $300 billion in order to enact prescription drug coverage under Medicare. The amendment was approved, 51-50.

On April 3, the Senate defeated, 50-50, an amendment by Sen. Max Baucus (D-NT) that would have shifted $158 billion from the proposed tax cut to increase funding for Medicare prescription drug coverage to $311 billion.

The Senate on April 4 voted to reduce the President’s tax cut by $450 billion to roughly $1.2 trillion. That move came when the Senate adopted, 53-47, an amendment by Sen Tom Harkin (D-IA) that would increase funding for a number of education programs by $250 billion over ten years and allocate $200 million for debt reduction. Among other things, the amendment would increase funding for Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), triple funding for school repair and renovation, increase the maximum Pell Grant by $600, and expand loan forgiveness for teachers.

The same day, an amendment to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was approved, 96-4. Offered by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the amendment would increase NIH funding by $700 million.

On April 5, the Senate voted 99-1 to approve an amendment by Sen. Susan Colins (R-ME) that would establish $13.7 billion reserve fund to restore Medicare payments to home health agencies.

Sens. Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) offered an amendment that would provide $28 billion over three years to expand health care coverage to the uninsured. Specifically, the amendment would provide small businesses with a tax credit if they increase the amount they contribute to pay for health care coverage; would extend Medicaid coverage to additional low-income individuals; and would give states the option of extending coverage under the State Children’s Health Insurance Program to parents of eligible children. The amendment was approved by unanimous consent.

The Senate also approved, by unanimous consent, an amendment by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) that would increase funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the Early Learning Opportunities Act, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and pediatric Graduate Medical Education programs.

By voice vote, the Senate approved an amendment by Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) that would increase funding for global HIV/AIDS prevention activities by $200 million.

An amendment by Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) that would reduce federal revenue by an additional $69 billion to eliminate the marriage tax penalty was approved, 51-50.

Also on April 5, the Senate voted to further reduce the President’s tax cut by $70 billion. At the time of the vote, the tax cut proposal had been reduced to roughly $1.2 trillion. The amendment., offered by Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and James Jeffords (R-VT), would reduce the tax cut by $70 billion and transfer the funding to IDEA. The amendment was approved, 54-46.

By unanimous consent, the Senate approved an amendment by Sen. Christopher Bond (R-MO) that would increase funding for consolidated health centers “should be increased by 100 percent over the next 5 fiscal years in order to double the number of individuals who receive health services at community, migrant, homeless, and public housing health centers.”

Additionally, the Senate approved, by unanimous consent, an amendment by Sens. Grassley and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) that would establish a reserve fund in the amount of $200 million for FY2002 and $7.9 billion for FY2003 through Fy2011 in the event that a bill to expand Medicaid coverage to children with special needs is enacted.

On April 5, the Senate defeated, 49-51, an amendment by Sen. Collins that would have provided $70 billion in tax cuts over ten years. The amendment would have implemented full deductibility of health insurance for the self-employed and provided an above the line deduction for the purchase of long-term care insurance.

Prior to final passage on April 6, the Senate approved, by unanimous consent, a number of amendments that were deemed revenue neutral. A detailed description of those amendments will be provided next week when WPI releases its analysis of the President’s FY2002 budget. The budget is scheduled to be released on April 9.

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