House Agrees To $2.8 Trillion In Spending

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The New York Sun

WASHINGTON – After two previous setbacks, the House finally approved a fiscal 2007 budget early yesterday morning, but differences with the Senate version may be too considerable for Congress to reach a final agreement.

The blueprint provides for $2.8 trillion in spending on entitlement programs and general operation of government during the fiscal year that begins October 1. The House snubbed two of President Bush’s top budget priorities: a major expansion of tax-free health savings accounts and curbs in the growth of Medicare spending for the elderly. But in a final-hour bid for votes, GOP leaders agreed to provide extra spending for popular health, education and other social programs to win over moderate Republicans.

The 218 to 210 vote was a victory for House Majority Leader John Boehner, a Republican of Ohio, who assumed his post in February after Rep. Tom DeLay, a Republican of Texas, resigned from leadership under an ethics cloud. After two embarrassing failures, Mr. Boehner and his allies bartered and cajoled throughout Wednesday to bridge a narrow but persistent vote gap.The House has passed a budget every year since the budget act took effect in 1975, but the Senate and House haven’t always agreed on a final version.

“We successfully worked with conservatives, moderates, and appropriators alike to come together as a team and pass a responsible budget that controls spending,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement after the vote.

A final agreement with the Senate appears out of reach, however, because of significant differences in funding priorities. While the House budget would allow more than $7 billion in extra domestic funding, the money would have to be shifted from other accounts, in keeping with Mr.Bush’s bottom-line limits on discretionary spending on general government operations. The Senate exceeded Mr. Bush’s caps by at least $16 billion.

“Clearly, at this point in the year it’s going to be tough to get a conference agreement,” the House Budget chairman, Rep. Jim Nussle, a Republican of Iowa, said. But he said that he and the Senate Budget chairman, Senator Gregg, a Republican of New Hampshire, would begin discussions “immediately.”

House Democrats said the House budget fails to provide adequate funding for veterans’ care, education, public health, and environmental protection. “This shamefully shortsighted budget resolution cuts crucial investments in our nation and our people,” Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, a Democrat of Maryland, said.

Democrats pounced on a late-night statement by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Republican of Illinois, who declared, “Well, folks, if you earn $40,000 a year and have a family of two, you don’t pay any taxes. So you probably, if you don’t pay any taxes, you are not going to get a big tax cut.”

Many such families indeed pay no federal income taxes, but Democrats said they pay plenty of Social Security and Medicare taxes.

“On the House floor early this morning, Speaker Hastert demonstrated how out of touch Republicans are with everyday Americans when he made the preposterous claim that working families pay no taxes,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat of California, said.

The New York Sun

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