House, Senate Committees Back Additional Budget Cuts

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WASHINGTON--The House and Senate Budget committees last week approved budget resolutions that essentially propose a freeze on discretionary spending through fiscal 1997.

Both resolutions would reduce the spending increases President Clinton requested for education, job training, and social-service programs.

But it is difficult to assess the specific impact of the resolutions on education and child-welfare programs. The non-binding resolutions are advisory only, and the final decisions will be made by appropriators. In addition, the resolutions make recommendations for broad categories of spending, not individual programs.

The House Budget Committee recommended $56 billion in spending for education, training, and social-service programs, including $41.4 billion in discretionary spending and $14.6 billion for entitlements--programs such as student loans and welfare, under which all eligible recipients can receive aid.

The Senate Budget Committee recommended spending $54.9 billion on that category of programs, including $37.1 billion for discretionary programs.

But neither panel suggested how that money should be divided among the three areas.

The President had asked for $56.8 billion, including $42.1 billion for discretionary programs.

Although its impact on specific education programs cannot be determined, observers here say last week's action will restrict the ability of appropriators to fully fund Mr. Clinton's education proposals and at least provide inflation adjustments for existing programs.

"It means an extension of all against all in the appropriations process, and pits education against health care and against the environment, which is something we hoped to avoid with this Administration,'' said David Baime, the director of federal relations for the American Association of Community Colleges and the vice president of the Committee for Education Funding. "It puts even further stress on the initiatives and investments Clinton has proposed.''

An aide to Rep. William H. Natcher, D-Ky., who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said the budget panels' actions are "going to constrain things.''

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee on a voice vote approved a supplemental bill for fiscal 1993, leaving intact nearly all Mr. Clinton's spending proposals.

Stimulus Bill to Floor

But at the request of Leon E. Panetta, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, the committee reduced the amount of money dedicated to recent Pell Grant shortfalls. Instead of allocating about $2 billion to completely cover the current shortfall, as Mr. Clinton originally proposed, $1.86 billion would be appropriated for that purpose.

The bill also includes $500 million for a Head Start summer program, $500 million for a Chapter 1 summer program, $235 million in Chapter 1 funding for states that will be hurt by the shift to 1990 Census data, and $1 billion for summer-youth job training.

Some conservative Democrats, however, are pressing Mr. Clinton to scale back his $16.2-billion proposal.

An aide to Rep. Charles W. Stenholm, D-Tex., a leader of that group, said he had not made specific recommendations to the President, but he is particularly troubled by the Chapter 1 spending aimed at cushioning the Census-data blow.

"That clearly isn't economic stimulus, and it isn't even good public policy,'' the aide said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Timothy J. Penny, D-Minn., another deficit hawk, sent a letter to the House leadership saying, "It is hard to understand why the request for additional spending for long-term investments such as Head Start [and] Chapter 1 ... cannot wait until the regular fiscal year 1994 appropriations process.''

Although the conservative Democrats hope to persuade Mr. Clinton to make some changes in the bill by the time it goes to the floor on March 18, the aide to Mr. Natcher said the chairman's reputation should help him secure the votes needed for passage if a compromise is not reached.

"I think Mr. Natcher's ability to push this thing through is high,'' he said. "That's not to say it isn't going to be difficult.''

The Senate has yet to begin work on the stimulus bill.

No 'Super-Appropriations Bill'

The House and Senate budget panels passed their resolutions only after lengthy and often acrimonious exchanges between Republicans and Democrats.

The House committee defeated a Republican alternative by a vote of 27 to 15, with only freshman Rep. Rick A. Lazio, R-N.Y., voting against party lines.

The proposal would have provided $51.5 billion for education, training, and social-service programs.

Its recommended cuts included reductions in several education programs, such as a complete phase-out of impact aid, which would have saved $151 million in fiscal 1994 and $1.6 billion over four years, according to documents provided by Rep. John R. Kasich, R-Ohio, the budget panel's ranking Republican.

Mr. Kasich also proposed reducing funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and arts and humanities education by 50 percent, saving $700 million in fiscal 1994 by making unspecified changes to the campus-based student-aid programs, and reducing guaranteed lenders' profit on Stafford Student Loans by 1 percent.

After providing a document listing these and other cuts, the ranking Republican chastised the Democrats for challenging the G.O.P. to propose specific cuts and failing to act in a similar manner.

"You told us to prepare a rigorous document, which we've prepared, and you yourself have failed the test,'' Mr. Kasich said.

But Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, D-Minn., who chairs the committee, said that is not his panel's job.

"We don't write a super-appropriations bill here,'' he said.

Vol. 12, Issue 25

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