Congress adopts budget plan

WASHINGTON — Congress last week adopted a $3.03 trillion budget plan for next year, although decisions on how to carry out significant parts of it may be delayed until then.

The House voted 214-210 for the budget, which was written by Democrats and reflects their priorities on spending and taxes.

The Senate passed the budget by a 48-45 vote.

The budget resolution is a blueprint that Congress tries to follow when it writes appropriations and tax bills later in the year.

Since the Democrats’ vision is at odds with President Bush’s, major choices probably will be deferred until after the November elections or into next year.

The budget bill, for instance, calls for Congress to spend $24.5 billion more than the $991 billion that Bush had requested for discretionary programs.

Those include defense and most domestic programs, but not Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, where spending is set automatically.

The budget resolution shows the government running a surplus in fiscal 2012.

The projection is built on assumptions that spending for the Iraq war will drop substantially over the next few years, and that some tax cuts implemented by Bush will be allowed to expire at the end of the decade.

Democrats gave themselves credit for passing the budget, which was not the case in recent years when Republicans ran Congress.

But Republicans criticized the budgets for taking spending to new levels while not controlling the growth in Social Security and other automatic spending programs.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted for the bill. Reps. Jon Porter and Dean Heller, both R-Nev., voted against it.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., voted for the bill. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., voted against it.


Senate Democrats withdrew a bill that would have required manufacturers and utilities to come up with big reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Republicans blocked the bill for most of the week.

It would have capped emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that contribute to global warming by up to 70 percent below current levels by 2050.

Businesses would seek to meet the caps by installing clean air equipment, and buying and selling allowances to meet interim goals along the way.

Money raised from the allowance program would be invested in consumer rebates, public transit and energy efficiency.

Democrats said the plan proposed by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., John Warner, R-Va., and Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, would make a dent in global warming while reshaping the economy and creating new jobs.

Senate Republicans and President Bush attacked it on cost, saying it would stifle industry and increase gasoline prices by 53 cents a gallon by 2030.

Debate on the bill never got fully under way as senators argued over procedure and then over an unrelated dispute on judicial nominations.

On Friday, a motion to end a Republican filibuster failed, 48-36. Sixty votes were needed to move forward, and the bill was subsequently withdrawn.

Reid voted to end the filibuster. Ensign voted to continue it.


The House voted 250-164 for a bill authorizing $6.4 billion to build and repair environmentally friendly schools.

Schools receiving money would have to be constructed to “green standards” that include the use of recycled materials and strategies that minimize energy costs while incorporating renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

Supporters said the money would help modernize schools. Critics said the money would be better spent on other education programs.

Bush aides threatened a veto. They said the school building is a state and local responsibility “and should remain there.”

Berkley and Porter voted for the bill. Heller voted against it.


The House turned away a bill to renew federal payments to counties with large tracts of federal land.

The bill would have reauthorized the Safe Rural Schools Program, whose payments offset the fact that communities cannot tax the government for owning federal property.

Bush threatened to veto the bill, which would have made changes in funding formulas and paid for them by levying fees on oil and gas producers in the Gulf of Mexico.

The vote was 218-193 for the bill, but it failed. The bill was debated under fast track rules that limited debate and amendments, thus requiring a two-thirds majority to pass.

Berkley voted for the bill. Porter and Heller voted against it.

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