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HOUSE PASSES EMERGENCY SPENDING BILL; SENATE ACTION TO BEGIN AFTER MEMORIAL DAY RECESS

Last week, the House finally passed an emergency spending supplemental for 2002 that included $28.8 billion in funds, primarily to bolster the military, increase funding for homeland security, and provide additional relief to New York City. The bill also included $1 billion to offset the Pell Grant shortfall. (Explanation of the Pell Grant shortfall.)

During debate on the bill, temperatures began to rise among Democrats, Republicans, and appropriators alike. In an attempt to establish some sort of control on discretionary spending, Republican leaders included language “deeming” that the House budget resolution’s $759 billion would act as the spending ceiling. House appropriators were furious with the move, which they believed set the bar too low to meet the nation’s spending needs. Ultimately, the motion passed 216 to 209 with several Republican members of the Appropriations Committee voting “no” or “present” in protest.

Democrats, meanwhile, were outraged at a different provision in the supplemental that would increase the debt limit without a clean vote or at least an opportunity to argue that the $1.35 trillion tax cut was the reason that the debt limit needed to be raised.

Before recessing for Memorial Day, the Senate Appropriations Committee reported out a $31 billion spending supplemental that is expected to go to the full Senate the week of June 3. Bipartisan negotiations are still ongoing as to whether the Senate bill will include an increase in the debt limit or a deeming provision that would set a discretionary spending ceiling. At stake may be the amount Congress agrees to spend in education this year.

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