Cost of Senate omnibus spending bill pegged at $391 billion
The Senate fiscal 2003 omnibus appropriations bill would cost $391.085 billion, according to preliminary Congressional Budget Office estimates obtained by CongressDaily.
That figure includes the discretionary totals for the 11 unfinished fiscal 2003 appropriations bills as well as additional mandatory spending pumped into the bill for emergency drought aid and a Medicare fix. It is slightly higher than the $390 billion figure commonly cited for the bill, which was increased on the floor by a series of amendments boosting everything from education to Amtrak to disaster relief. Adding the bill's total to the previously passed Defense and Military Construction spending bills would raise fiscal 2003 spending to $752.2 billion.
But those numbers are somewhat misleading because of the politics and applicability of the 2.9 percent across-the-board reduction included in the bill, which CBO estimates at about $11.39 billion.
According to CBO estimates, that money is used to offset the cost of about $4 billion in added defense projects, while $4.22 billion in mandatory spending remains outside the scope of the across-the-board cut. Originally, the mandatory spending, like drought aid and Medicare, was supposed to be offset by the across-the-board reduction, whereas the defense accounts were supposed to be paid for from the $10 billion defense reserve fund set up by the president's budget. The difference in accounting-which could technically affect the overall cost of the bill, depending on the results of the House-Senate conference-goes to a fight Congress is having with the Bush administration over the total cost of the omnibus and what should be paid for by the across-the-board cut. Appropriators are opposed to using such discretionary offsets to pay for mandatory programs like drought relief and Medicare, and CBO estimates basically agree with appropriators on that count.
Most individual subcommittee allocations remained the same despite a flurry of amendments accepted on the floor. Among those that changed significantly was the Labor-HHS appropriations allocation, which jumped from $131.4 billion to $136.5 billion, based mostly on new education money added to the bill. That figure does not include about $3.5 billion in so-called advanced appropriations added to the omnibus for education that has drawn the ire of the Bush administration, which is seeking to limit the use of advanced appropriations in spending bills in order to garner a more accurate reflection of the bill's spending commitments.
Conferees are expected to begin work this week on reconciling House and Senate positions on the omnibus, and the House this afternoon, by voice vote, passed a new continuing resolution to extend funding through Feb. 7.