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With no major tax changes in the forecast, Congress has few incentives to reach agreement on an overall federal budget plan for fiscal year 2003. Working out the major difference between the House and Senate plans would require more time and energy than either the Republican House or the Democratic Senate is willing to spend. At stake, however, is the debate Members would like to have on issues such as education. For example, the Senate has allocated $9 billion more than the House for domestic investments including $5.6 billion more for education. This difference could be worked out among appropriators without agreeing on a final budget plan.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) who worked with the President to enact the new education bill have called for billions more for education than the House, Senate or President’s plan. The Kennedy/Miller education budget would invest $10 billion more in education for fiscal year 2003, an amount they say is necessary to implement the provisions if of the new law and to meet the federal commitment to fully fund special education. The final decision on how much Congress spends on education this year will be decided in the fall with passage of the Labor, HHS, and Education appropriations bill-just in time for congressional elections.

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