Senate Panel Passes Budget Bills

As the Senate Budget Committee Friday approved the reconciliation package by a 19-3 vote, Budget Chairman Domenici said portions of it still do not meet the terms of the budget deal reached with the Clinton administration.

Domenici singled out the Senate Commerce Committee for not providing enough spectrum auction revenue to meet its savings target. The Commerce panel did not require a date certain for the return of analog spectrum -- thus diminishing interest on the part of potential bidders -- and did not choose to auction "888" phone numbers.

A Budget Committee aide said the budget deal called for $26 billion in revenues from the spectrum auctions, but the Senate bill auctions are expected to raise only $15 billion -- and the House bill $10 billion.

Domenici charged, "They just flat out didn't do a lot of things we asked them to do," adding he would meet with the leadership later Friday about strategies for fixing the spectrum and other budget resolution compliance problems during floor debate, set to begin Monday.

House Budget Committee members had been scheduled to deal with their reconciliation package Friday, but, at presstime, their meeting had been delayed repeatedly by defense votes on the House floor and a GOP Conference session late this morning.

The Senate Budget Committee does not have the power to amend the reconciliation bills, but only to bundle them and submit an analysis of which sections should be changed. As part of that analysis, Budget Committee staff this weekend will give the reconciliation package a "Byrd bath" -- finding extraneous provisions that do not meet the Byrd rule.

The Byrd rule allows points of order to be raised against reconciliation provisions that do not have a direct impact on the deficit.

Domenici said changes will be needed for provisions relating to disabled immigrants and the set aside for low-income Medicare recipients.

A Budget aide later added the Senate Finance Committee plan to raise Medicare eligibility from age 65 to 67 will need 60 votes on the floor under the Byrd rule to be retained. Because that provision would not take effect for more than 10 years, it does not affect revenue or spending under the budget resolution's time frame.

The reconciliation package reported by the Senate Budget Committee Friday contains the Senate Finance Committee's spending bill, but not the tax provisions approved late Thursday night. The spending package will come up for 20 hours of debate at noon Monday, Domenici said. An aide added the Senate leadership wants to complete that bill by Tuesday night and begin the tax bill Wednesday morning.

Because tax bills are always a magnet for amendments -- and because the Senate will recess the following week for July 4 -- the leadership is talking about a possible session on Saturday, June 28, the aide said.

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