WASHINGTON (AP) _ With President Clinton poised for a veto, Congress today approved the last and biggest spending bill for the new fiscal year, clearing the way for both sides to focus on final budget talks.
The Senate passed the $314 billion measure financing labor, education and health programs by a mostly party-line 49-48 vote. The House voted its assent by a narrow 218-211 Thursday.
GOP leaders lobbied heavily for Senate passage, which marked a victory for Republicans by letting them claim they completed all 13 spending bills for fiscal 2000 _ though 32 days late. They also say they finished the bills without spending Social Security surpluses _ even though the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says they would spend $17 billion of the pension system’s reserves.
``When the bell tolls ... we’ll be able to say to senior citizens, ’We didn’t touch Social Security,‴ said the Senate Budget Committee chairman, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
The president had long threatened to veto the bill because instead of providing $1.4 billion he wants for hiring teachers exclusively, it has $1.2 billion that states could use for teachers or other educational purposes. Clinton also opposes its inclusion of a 0.97 percent across-the-board cut in proposed spending for all 13 spending bills, which Republicans said could come out of government waste.
``This across-the-board cut has nothing to do with ridding ourselves of waste,″ said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D. ``This goes to muscle and bone of programs.″
In an Education Department memo released Monday evening, officials said they believe the measure would let the money be used for vouchers, a concept the White House, most Democrats and some moderate Republicans oppose. But the finding failed to block the bill’s passage.