Despite regrets, panels approve Labor-HHS spending bills

After passionate debates on the cost of tax cuts and the hiring practices of faith-based organizations, the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday reported out its $138 billion fiscal 2004 Labor-HHS spending bill on a straight party-line 33-23 vote.

The bill funds a vast array of social programs devoted to education, health care, job training and medical research, and represents a slight increase over President Bush's $137.99 billion fiscal 2004 request, and a more than $5 billion jump from the fiscal 2003 level of $132.4 billion.

But Appropriations ranking member David Obey, D-Wis., continued his arguments that the bill falls short of funding many promises made in the fiscal 2004 budget resolution in order to pay for the recently enacted $353 billion tax cut. Obey's two amendments to redirect money from the tax cut that millionaires would get to increase spending on programs across the bill and to reinsuring children who have lost their health insurance lost by party-line votes of 35-28 and 35-29.

But it was the amendment by Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, concerning the hiring practices of federally funded faith-based groups that sparked the most heated debate. The Edwards amendment was ultimately defeated 32-27, with GOP Reps. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Don Sherwood of Pennsylvania voting with a united Democratic bloc.

Meanwhile, the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee approved its version of the Labor-HHS spending bill and sent it on to the full Appropriations panel, where it is likely to be taken up Thursday afternoon. The bill's price tag-$137.6 billion-is $445 million below the companion House bill and $389 million under President Bush's budget request.

Even Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., acknowledged that many education, healthcare, research and worker training programs were underfunded. Specter said the subcommittee "did the best it could given the limitations on us" imposed by the fiscal 2004 budget resolution. The bill, in many respects, he said, is "not remotely satisfactory."

Some Democrats agreed. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., noted that the bill fell $8.7 billion short of what had been earlier promised in the president's "No Child Left Behind" law that calls for higher teacher and pupil standards nationwide in secondary and elementary education. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, defended the bill's contents. He reminded the panel that education spending since 1996 has been increased by 107 percent. Budget cutbacks for next year, Craig said, were necessitated by a flat economy.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.