Senate Passes Bill To End Deficit in Grant Program

March 30, 1987 1 min read

WASHINGTON--Capping nearly a month of partisan wrangling, the Senate last week approved a supplemental spending bill for fiscal 1987 that would eliminate the long-standing deficit in the Pell Grant program.

By a vote of 71 to 23, the Senate approved the bill, which allocates an additional $9.4 billion in spending for the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30. A similiar measure, calling for $9.2 billion in new funding, was passed by the House in April.

Reflecting current concern about the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the Senate unanimously voted to include in the spending bill a new testing program for immigrants. Although the Reagan Administration has already said it will impose such testing, the amendment’s supporters, led by Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, argued that the measure was needed to prevent bureaucratic delays.

“How can it possibly make sense that this nation ... should not exclude individuals coming to this country infected with the AIDS virus?’' Mr. Helms asked.

Consideration of the Senate bill was stalled for several weeks because of procedural objections from conservative Republican members. The measure adds about $2 billion to the federal budget deficit, and a so-called “super majority’’ of 60 Senators was required to bring the bill to a final vote.

Although the measure contained emergency funding for several popular farm programs, opponents charged that it was loaded down with a host of wasteful items.

House and Senate negotiators now must attempt to reconcile the differences between the two spending measures. The Senate bill would spend $287 million to eliminate the funding gap in the Pell Grant program, while the House bill would leave a $60-million shortfall.

Meanwhile, a separate team of negotiators reportedly has made little progress toward an agreement on a fiscal 1988 spending plan. The two sides are not far apart on a proposed education budget, but remain deadlocked on the issues of military spending and taxes.

The Senate has adopted a budget calling for considerably higher revenues than the plan approved by the House, with much of the new money earmarked for the Defense Department. The House delegation, on the other hand, is advocating higher spending for domestic programs.