House allocations would boost domestic spending 5 percent

The House Appropriations Committee is set Tuesday to approve 302(b) subcommittee spending allocations for the upcoming fiscal year that would boost domestic spending by more than 5 percent over fiscal 2007 enacted levels, while rewarding defense, homeland security, veterans and foreign aid programs with even more generous increases.

Education, job training and discretionary healthcare programs would receive a $10.2 billion increase over President Bush's request to $151.1 billion, erasing the $3.6 billion in cuts that Bush proposed from fiscal 2007 levels. That represents a 4.6 percent increase over this year's enacted levels, which rises even higher when combined with an extra $2 billion in "advance" appropriations built into the fiscal 2008 budget from the following fiscal year and additional funds allotted by the budget resolution specifically for "program integrity initiatives" such as Health and Human Services fraud and abuse control programs.

House Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., who also chairs the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, rewarded his panel with an additional $1 billion late last week, in part to make up for the elimination from the Iraq supplemental of funding for low-income energy subsidies and to prepare for avian flu.

To make room, Obey shifted additional funds from his fiscal 2008 Defense bill allocation, which totals $459.3 billion -- $3.5 billion shy of the president's request. That is a 0.8 percent difference under the Congressional Budget Office's scoring, but closer to a 0.4 percent decrease under the Office of Management and Budget's scoring from the initial request Bush submitted in February.

Defense funding would still grow $39.7 billion, or 9.5 percent, from the current fiscal year. That does not count an additional $141.7 billion Bush has requested for fiscal 2008 war funding.

Republicans cut $4 billion from Bush's core defense request in each of the past two fiscal years -- but they will argue they were operating under much tighter budgets than the fiscal 2008 version, which allots $20.2 billion above the president's request. Overall, the total $953 billion discretionary budget represents a 2.2 percent increase over Bush, and a 9 percent increase over fiscal 2007.

The bigger cut from Bush's defense request also softens the proposed blow to State-Foreign Operations programs, which will see a 9.5 percent increase over the previous year but drop $700 million from Bush's request. That measure is slated for subcommittee markup Tuesday.

Other winners in Obey's budget plan include the Commerce-Justice-Science bill, awarded a $2.3 billion increase over Bush's request to $53.6 billion. That is a 6.4 percent increase over this year. Transportation and housing programs would receive $2.8 billion more than Bush requested, for a total of $50.7 billion in discretionary funds, a 5.8 percent increase over fiscal 2007.

Subcommittees will take up those bills tentatively June 11, while June 12 the Agriculture Subcommittee could mark up a bill proposing a nearly $1 billion increase above Bush and above fiscal 2007 -- about 6 percent -- to $18.8 billion for discretionary programs.

The biggest budgetary increases go to Military Construction-VA programs, which would rise 30 percent, and the Homeland Security measure, which is allotted a 13.6 percent increase over fiscal 2007. The Legislative Branch measure would see a 7 percent decrease from Bush's request, but a roughly equal increase over fiscal 2007.

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