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Conflict Over the CR: a Likely Omen of What Is To Come With the '08 Budget

February 2, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Congress Daily, a subscription-only insider publication, offers this interesting view of the budget battles between the Senate, the House, and the Administration. The article sees these issues emerging with the currently-pending continuing resolution as indicative of the ones that will guide work on the upcoming 2008 fiscal budget.

From the article:

House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member David Hobson, R-Ohio, and Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Pete Domenici, R-N.M., dislike each other personally as well as professionally. Hobson chafes at Domenici’s and other senators’ propensity for “pork.” Domenici regards Hobson as an obstacle to funding his states’ nuclear labs.

In searching for savings throughout their bill, House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., agreed with Hobson to try to rescind nearly $500 million in older, Senate-backed local projects, including several in New Mexico. But the Senate whittled that total to $94.5 million.

“We have only succeeded in stripping out the House earmarks. Over in the other chamber, it’s business as usual,” Hobson said on the floor, using terms such as “perceived impact in New Mexico” and “the strong interest of a particular senator in West Virginia,” referring to Senate Appropriations Chairman Byrd.

The Energy Department has told appropriators it plans to continue to fund earmarks, despite CR language ensuring that agencies are not legally bound to honor prior projects. Earlier this week, Domenici announced he was working with the Energy Department to ensure New Mexico projects were funded with available dollars.

Relations between Democratic leaders and the White House likely will not worsen considerably over the final product. As when the Republicans were in control, the Democrats gave with one hand and they took away with the other — the sort of trade-offs expected in any major legislative undertaking.

The $31.2 billion State Department and foreign aid budget is a good example. Overall funding would increase more than $1 billion over FY06, but it shorts the Bush request by $2.7 billion. It represents roughly what House and Senate Republicans proposed last year before the FY07 bill was shelved.

The Democrats’ bill goes above and beyond Bush’s requests to combat global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, adding $1.4 billion above last year. But it cuts nearly an equal amount from Bush’s request for his signature Millennium Challenge initiative, aimed at providing funds to developing countries that meet democracy benchmarks.

The bill shorts Bush’s request for Iraq reconstruction by roughly $700 million. Overall, overseas economic aid is cut $746 million below the president’s request. Within the roughly $2.5 billion provided is an overall $143 million increase above last year for Iraq and Afghanistan. But out of unspent funds remaining, $200 million is rescinded from aid to Egypt, to the White House’s dismay. House and Senate Republicans proposed a similar Egypt rescission.

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