Congress Completes Budget; Debate on Stimulus Drags On
WASHINGTON--Congress has completed work on a budget blueprint for fiscal 1994 that generally conforms to President Clinton's budget strategy. But the Senate was still debating Mr. Clinton's economic-stimulus bill late last week.
It was unclear when senators would vote on the stimulus bill, HR 1335, which would provide supplemental appropriations for the current fiscal year, and whether it would be passed intact, allowing lawmakers to bypass a House-Senate conference on the measure. The House approved the bill last month.
Congress was scheduled to recess on April 5, and lawmakers had hoped to complete work by the end of last week on the fiscal 1994 budget resolution, H Con Res 64; the $16.3-billion supplemental-spending measure; and a bill to raise the federal debt limit, HR 1430.
The House approved HR 1430 by a vote of 237 to 177 last week, and the budget resolution passed both chambers. But the Senate had not begun consideration of the debt-limit bill, and its debate on the supplemental continued late into the week.
A Republican Roadblock
The Senate leadership was apparently preparing to make concessions to Republicans, who endeavored through last week to derail the stimulus bill. They charged that it includes unnecessary spending and political payoffs for states and localities that supported Mr. Clinton's election.
Meanwhile, some Democrats wavered in their support as the Senate leadership sought enough votes to pass the measure. Observers said the Democrats apparently had a majority, but not the 60 votes needed to close off debate.
President Clinton helped assuage wavering Democrats last week with a letter to Sens. John B. Breaux, D-La., and David L. Boren, D-Okla., that assured them that he would find spending cuts to offset allocations included in the stimulus package if Congress fails to make all the cuts called for in the budget resolution.
Among other cuts, H Con Res 64 calls on Congressional education panels to find $4.6 billion in savings in the next five years as a collegiate direct-loan program is phased in.
"I think the letter goes a very long way to giving me the confidence ... that this is not business as usual,'' Mr. Breaux said.
Earlier, Mr. Breaux and Mr. Boren spoke in opposition to HR 1335 for more than four hours to call attention to their proposal to delay some of the supplemental spending.
Senators rejected an amendment by Herb Kohl, D-Wis., that would have required Congress to put off about half of the stimulus spending unless specific spending cuts were made to other programs.
HR 1335 includes $1 billion for summer youth jobs, $500 million each for summer Chapter 1 and Head Start programs, $235 million for school districts that will suffer from the use of 1990 Census figures in the Chapter 1 formula, $1.86 billion to alleviate Pell Grant shortfalls, $300 million for child immunization, and $15 million for a summer national-service program.
Clinton Administration officials have said that HR 1335 must be passed by early April so localities have time to plan summer programs.
Fiscal 1994 Budget
The House-Senate agreement on H Con Res 64 calls for fiscal 1994 spending on education, training, and social-services programs to reach $55.8 billion, including $41.1 billion in discretionary spending. It was approved 240 to 184 in the House, and by a vote of 55 to 45 in the Senate.
The discretionary total is $300 million below that recommended by the House, $800 million more than the amount approved by the Senate, and $1.1 billion below the amount requested by the President. It is $3.9 billion above the amount included in the fiscal 1993 budget resolution, and $2.9 billion more than the amount needed to keep pace with inflation.
A Senate Budget Committee aide said the agreement called for about $300 million more than it otherwise would have for education, training, and social-services programs as a result of an impassioned plea from Rep. Dale E. Kildee, D-Mich. Mr. Kildee, a member of the House Budget Committee, is the chairman of the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education.
H Con Res 64 is a non-binding resolution designed to guide appropriators, who allocate funds to specific programs. President Clinton's budget is expected to propose hefty increases for Head Start and a smaller increase for the Education Department, much of which would fund his own initiatives. (See related story, p.1)
The resolution calls for $496 billion in deficit reduction by fiscal 1998, $76 billion above the amount originally targeted by Mr. Clinton.