Archive for Friday, March 17, 2006

Senate OKs $2.8 trillion budget

March 17, 2006

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— Congress pushed the ceiling on the national debt to nearly $9 trillion Thursday, and the House and Senate promptly voted for major spending initiatives for the war in Iraq, hurricane relief and education.

The House approved $92 billion in new money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for relief along the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast.

The Senate adopted a $2.8 trillion budget blueprint that anticipates deficits greater than $350 billion for both this year and next. The spending blueprint, approved 51-49, little resembles President Bush's proposal last month for the budget year that begins Oct. 1.

To the disappointment of budget hawks, the Senate's measure would break Bush's proposed caps on spending for programs such as education, low-income heating subsidies and health research.

All told, senators endorsed more than $16 billion in increases above Bush's proposed $873 billion cap on spending appropriated by Congress each year.

Senators earlier voted 52-48 to send Bush a measure that would allow the government to borrow an additional $781 billion and prevent a first-ever default on Treasury notes.

As a result, the government could pay for the war in Iraq without raising taxes or cutting popular domestic programs.

The budget blueprint advanced in the Republican-led Senate when Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu supported the plan after winning concessions to help her hurricane-damaged state of Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast.

She won inclusion of a proposal that could provide up $2 billion a year for levee and coastal restoration projects. The money would come from auctioning television airwaves to wireless companies and from potential oil lease revenues from exploration in an Alaskan wildlife refuge.

The Senate votes Thursday set up a confrontation with the House, which is certain to oppose the additional spending.

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