Congress Gives OK on $123B Bill
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The House Appropriations Committee gave initial approval Wednesday to $123 billion for this year’s education, health and labor programs, a 10 percent boost over last year made affordable by the recent bipartisan budget pact.
The largest of the 13 annual spending bills includes big increases for a new priority _ fighting biological terror attacks _ and an old one, schools.
Voice vote approval by an Appropriations subcommittee marked the start of what leaders hope will be a whirl of congressional activity on routine spending measures for fiscal 2002, which began Monday.
So far, none of the 13 spending bills have been sent to President Bush. But with Bush and lawmakers having agreed to a $686 billion total price tag for the measures _ $44 billion more than last year _ both sides hope to complete all the bills by month’s end so policy makers can focus on the war against terrorism.
The government is currently functioning on temporary authority, which runs through Oct. 16.
The bill’s biggest spending increase would go to the Education Department, which would get $49.2 billion. That is nearly 17 percent more than last year and almost 11 percent more than Bush initially proposed. Bush and the Democrats have made schools a top priority, but Democrats used recent budget negotiations to win extra money for education.
In one response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the panel provided a $100 million increase _ to $393 million _ for programs aimed at countering the use of biological agents by terrorists. The money would go to the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and the Office of Emergency Preparedness.
Congress is certain to include many billions more in added anti-terrorism spending in later legislation.
The overall price tag of the labor, health and education bill is $407 billion, but only $123 billion of that covers spending that Congress must approve every year. The rest is for programs that automatically pay benefits, like Medicaid.