CHN: House Budget Committee Approves Budget Resolution
Low-Income Programs Left Behind
Despite sinking federal revenues and prior commitments to use Congressional Budget Office (CBO) budget estimates, the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee approved a fiscal 2003 budget resolution last Wednesday. In order to produce a $2.1 trillion “balanced” budget, the committee opted to work from the more generous Bush Administration budget numbers, count over $200 billion in Social Security money, and omit the $43 billion economic stimulus package enacted last week.
Like the President’s budget proposal, the House budget outline would provide a huge increase in military spending, while neglecting to grant even an inflationary increase to the overall spending level of most of the government’s other programs. Under the plan, Pentagon spending would rise from this year’s level of $345 billion to $379 billion. Non-defense discretionary spending would be $366 billion, 1.1 percent more than in fiscal year 2002. Many of the programs important to low-income populations – like the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, and the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) – received level funding.
The House Budget Committee’s “wartime” budget resolution – which is likely to reach the House floor next week – passed on a 23-18 party-line vote. Partisan disagreements over spending priorities are also expected when the Senate Budget Committee drafts its plan – using CBO numbers – next week.
Congress’s yearly budget resolution establishes an overall outline for spending and revenues for the coming year. The enactment of 13 separate appropriations bills and (occasionally) one or more tax bills completes this process later in the year. However, given the considerable partisan differences, it is uncertain as to whether the House and Senate will be able to agree on a fiscal year 2003 budget resolution. Appropriators in each body could use their own chamber’s resolutions to guide spending decisions, but passing conference reports without a unified budget will be difficult. The last time Congress failed to agree on a budget plan was fiscal year 1999.