Budget Debate Intensifies in Congress
The Democrat-controlled Senate is holding out the possibility of larger federal education funding increases next year.
The Senate Budget Committee has approved a plan with an extra $6.8 billion for education and related programs. This amount is above the $1.5 billion in new education spending contained in a House-passed budget resolution.
While the resolutions provide only general spending totals in broad categories, the Senate plan could provide moderate increases for many higher education programs. The Bush increase amounts to only 2 percent above current spending.
Lawmakers rarely include individual program recommendations in their budget resolutions, but the Democrat-controlled Senate budget panel did include a “sense of the Senate” recommendation for a $500 increase in the maximum Pell Grant. Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., pushed for this increase, which would go beyond the current $4,000 maximum Pell Grant for the neediest students.
The White House education budget proposes no increase in the Pell maximum, leaving it at $4,000 next year.
In response to the recent budget debates, the Bush administration has raised the possibility that the president may veto next year’s budget bills if he believes they contain too much spending. The fight is likely to be waged in the fall around the time the new federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The House and Senate will use their budget resolutions when they craft spending bills for thousands of federal programs this summer. Lawmakers also continue to hold hearings to get input from education groups and the public about spending priorities for the 2003 fiscal year.
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