Spending Plans for Fiscal '91 Advance in Both House, Senate
Washington--Spending plans for the next fiscal year advanced in both the House and the Senate last week, setting the stage for budget talks between Congressional leaders and White House officials.
The full House and the Senate Budget Committee approved differing budget plans for 1991, and legislative leaders were invited to the White House for a May 6 discussion expected to include the subject of deficit reduction.
The House narrowly passed a Democratic budget blueprint approved earlier by the House Budget Committee that would increase education spending by $2.5 billion above the inflation rate.
The $1.2-trillion spending plan, passed on a 218-to-208 vote with no Republican support, would provide $48.7 billion in spending authority and $43.1 billion in outlays for the "function 500" budget category that includes education, training, and social services.
In addition to the boost for education, it would earmark $1.4 billion for child care and $600 million above inflation for Head Start.
The House turned down two alternatives proposed by Republicans and one offered by the Congressional Black Caucus that would have increased funds for existing education programs and added money for new education, child-care, and teacher-training initiatives.
Representative Bill Frenzel of Minnesota, the budget panel's ranking Republican, dropped a plan to bring President Bush's budget proposal to a vote--a move Democrats maintained signaled a lack of support.
Mr. Bush's plan included $42.9 billion in budget authority and $40.8 billion in outlays for function-500 programs.
The Senate Budget Committee,8meanwhile, approved its own $1.2-trillion spending proposal last week.
The measure passed on a 14-to-9 vote, with Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa casting his vote with committee Democrats.
The plan would earmark $47.5 billion in budget authority and $42.4 billion in outlays for function-500 programs, reflecting a $4.9-billion increase over inflation.
But it was unclear how much of the increase would go to education.
Budget resolutions adopted by the Congress are not considered binding, but set broad guidelines for the appropriations panels that allot money to specific programs.
"We're concerned that the function-500 number [in the Senate plan] on face value is lower than the House number," said Susan Frost, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding. She also noted that the Senate panel's plan calls for $3.6 billion in cuts in non-defense discretionary programs, substantially morethan in the House plan.
Two senators who unsuccessfully sought to raise education funding in the committee markup have not ruled out offering floor amendments.
"It's not a dead issue," said Lisa Caputo, press secretary to Senator Tim Wirth, Democrat of Colorado.
John Weinberger, a legislative aide to Senator Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois, added that Mr. Simon "would like to do something to add to education programs."
The draft of a plan Mr. Simon had considered offering in committee called for a $4.7-billion hike in Education Department budget authority and $834 million in outlays in 1991.
When the House considered its plan, education advocates had hoped to boost spending levels with a proposal Representative Dale E. Kildee, Democrat of Michigan, had sought to offer that would have shifted $850 million from defense to education. That amendment was disallowed by the Rules Committee.
Still, "we're glad the House Budget Committee resolution passed, because the increase in there for education is very important," Ms. Frost said. "We're concerned that that increase be protected in the coming months--including in a summit" with the White House on budget issues, if one takes place.
Administration officials, concerned that worsening economic conditions and rising interest rates might necessitate more extreme measures than anticipated to meet deficit-reduction targets, have been pressing for bud4get talks.
Although White House and Congressional aides confirmed last week that a meeting was planned for this past Sunday, some said it had not been characterized as a summit.
Speaker of the House Thomas S. Foley, Democrat of Washington, joked at a news conference that he had been invited to attend a lecture on Theodore Roosevelt.
"If anything else is discussed besides Theodore Roosevelt, I will be glad to listen," he said.
He added that for some time he has anticipated high-level talks on the budget.
"Whether they constitute what is referred to as a summit is a matter of definition," he said.
Vol. 09, Issue 33