Senate approves fiscal 2005 budget resolution

The Senate approved its fiscal 2005 budget resolution around 1 a.m. Friday on a 51-45 vote largely along party lines, with only Sens. Zell Miller, D-Ga., and Trent Lott, R-Miss., crossing the aisle.

But House leaders have decided to delay their budget debate by one week.

Numerous amendments fell by the wayside in a late-night "vote-o-rama," although by the end of the debate the Senate had increased the foreign aid budget by $300 million over the president's request, offset by unspecified decreases in the catchall "920" budget account often used for offsetting reductions.

The White House on Friday applauded the Senate vote.

"We appreciate the Senate passing a budget that stays within the budget the president outlined," said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. "This follows the president's budget program of winning the war on terrorism, strengthening homeland security, boosting job creation at home and keeping taxes low while working to cut the deficit in half over five years."

During the Senate debate, an amendment by Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar, R-Ind., restored a proposed $1.7 billion from the president's request, largely for the Millenium Challenge Account, and a separate amendment by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., added $300 million to combat global HIV/AIDS. Since the budget is non-binding, appropriators will be able to shift funds around.

"The Senate did right by the developing world yesterday," said a spokesman for the advocacy group Debt, AIDS and Trade in Africa.

But the Senate's move could foreshadow a coming budget fight with the House over foreign assistance. The House's fiscal 2005 budget resolution would slash $4 billion from the president's request for the international affairs account, and House appropriators have said the fiscal 2005 Foreign Operations bill could be targeted to add spending for domestic purposes. The Senate also adopted an amendment to cancel the delivery of 53 million barrels of crude oil to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The amendment, which is intended to lower crude oil prices, redirected the $1.7 billion for homeland security grants and for deficit reduction.

The House schedule was thrown for a loop when members of the Budget Committee insisted on moving separate budget enforcement legislation at the same time as the fiscal 2005 budget resolution. House Budget Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, was forced to continue his markup next Wednesday, and House GOP leaders pulled the resolution from next week's floor schedule.

"It is much more likely to be on the floor the following week," a GOP leadership aide said. Other aides said to put the measure on the floor next week would have run afoul of a rule requiring 48 hours notice before floor action on the budget resolution, with Wednesday's markup likely to take considerable time.

"They're completely thrown off by this," a House Democratic aide said.

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