Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Budget Battle Moves to Senate

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Budget Battle Moves to Senate

Article excerpt

As the Weekly went to press, the Senate continued floor debate on its Budget Resolution for 2001 while the Republicans continued to discuss their differences over how to hold spending down, and the Democrats tried to force a shift in the budget resolution's focus from tax cuts to deficit reduction, a Medicare prescription drug benefit and priority discretionary programs.

Budget hawk Senator Phil Gramm (R-Tx.) managed to attach provisions to the resolution that require points of order with 60 votes before appropriators can use advanced appropriations and emergency spending designations to reach desired funding levels, and to strengthen the barrier between defense and non-defense funding.

Senate appropriators are opposing these restrictions on their flexibility to work out funding agreements and are expected to push an amendment to negate the Gramm provisions.

As the debate got underway, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) spoke passionately in support of increasing the amount provided in the budget resolution for prescription drug coverage under Medicare. Kennedy offered an unsuccessful amendment, which would call for funding a prescription drug benefit before any tax cuts are considered. The GOP budget provides for a five-year $20 to $40 billion Medicare prescription drug benefit based on reforms to the Medicare system, as well as the size of tax cuts and the budget surplus.

The Senate's 2001 Budget Resolution, S Con Res 101, calls for $589.7 billion in discretionary budget authority, a $10.5 billion increase over this year's level. This would provide $289.7 billion for non-defense discretionary programs and $307 billion for defense.

However, the Budget Committee, before sending the resolution to the Senate floor, added language to technically keep spending within the 2001 budget cap of $541 billion established under the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. …

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