Congress OKs $284.1 Billion in Spending

From Associated Press

Lawmakers gave final approval to three appropriations bills and sent them to President Clinton on Wednesday: a $247-billion bill financing labor, health and education programs; a $13.6-billion measure financing the Interior Department and cultural programs, and a $23.5-billion bill for the Treasury, Postal Service and some smaller agencies.

On Tuesday, Congress had shipped two other bills to Clinton: a $90.1-billion measure financing veterans, housing and space programs and a $68-billion bill financing agriculture and food initiatives.

Overall, Congress has now sent Clinton 10 of its 13 annual spending bills for fiscal 1995, which begins Saturday. It has not completed all 13 measures in time for the beginning of the government's new year since Sept. 30, 1988, when it shipped the final measure to President Ronald Reagan at three minutes to midnight.

The labor-health bill finances many of Clinton's most important initiatives, though at lower levels than he sought. The Head Start preschool program would get $3.5 billion, $500 million less than Clinton wanted, and the National Institutes of Health would get $11.3 billion, $100 million below the President's proposal.

The veterans and housing bill contains $14.4 billion for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, about $150 million less than this year; $1.1 billion for housing aid for the homeless, a $300-million increase, and $17.6 billion for veterans compensation and pensions, a $100-million boost.

Included in the NASA budget is $2.1 billion for the proposed space station, nearly $200 million more than was provided in 1994.

The Senate's 90-9 passage of the veterans bill came after the Senate refused to strip out $155-million worth of lawmakers' pet projects. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) argued that the money for sewer, housing and other projects was wasteful.

The Senate approved the agriculture bill on a voice vote. It reduces last year's spending levels for many programs, including flood prevention, food distribution to the poor and government subsidies to companies that sell food overseas.

The Treasury and Postal Service measure is most noteworthy for what it prevents: a pay raise for members of Congress.

The measure also eliminates $157 million in new federal buildings that the Senate had included in an earlier version of the legislation. Among the major projects eliminated were courthouses in Santa Ana, Calif., and Laredo, Tex., and a U.S. Geological Survey lab in Lakewood, Colo.

It was approved Wednesday by the Senate on a voice vote. The House had passed it on Tuesday, 360-53.

The Senate approved the Interior bill 92-7. The House approved it Tuesday on a voice vote.

Included was $168 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, $3 million less than Clinton wanted.

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