On March 25, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its budget plan for fiscal 2005, but did not allow a floor vote on a comprehensive budget amendment drafted by House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member David Obey (D-WI) that would have increased education spending by $5.7 billion. Specifically, the amendment would have added $1.5 billion for Title I, $1.2 billion for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, $500 million for school improvement, and $2.2 billion to raise the Pell grant maximum award by $450.
The education amendment was part of a larger $19.2 billion amendment that would have invested $13.2 billion in “key areas of national concern neglected in the budget resolution,” according to Obey. “Public education, worker training, veterans’ health, environmental protection and housing are singled out for severe cuts even though they constitute just one-sixth of the federal budget,” said the Congressman. “Despite rhetoric to the contrary, these services have had almost nothing to do with the recent rise in the deficit, which was, in fact, largely caused by the Republicans’ explosive tax cuts for the rich.”
The House budget plan-which passed on a narrow 215-212 vote-would reduce taxes by $138 billion over five years, raise military spending by 7 percent, devote $329 billion to domestic programs (slightly less than called for in the president’s budget), and make an unspecified $13 billion cut to entitlement programs such as welfare and Medicare over the next five years.
House and Senate conferees met several times last week, but were unable to reach a compromise. The main issue of contention between the House and Senate budget plans is whether to offset any new tax cuts with corresponding spending cuts or tax increases elsewhere. The House version requires that any increases to mandatory spending, but not new tax cuts, be paid for by one of these options. The Senate-passed version requires that both mandatory spending increases and tax cuts be paid for through such offsets.
Further action on a compromise is not expected to occur until the week of April 19, once both chambers return from their spring recess.