Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and fellow members of the Senate Budget Committee, passed a budget resolution yesterday that would invest in the economy and reestablish enforceable limits on federal spending. Enzi was also successful in establishing as a Budget Committee priority the severe need for long term drought planning.
The more than $2 trillion federal budget sets taxing and spending parameters and provides a blueprint for Congress as it crafts legislation in the coming year.
The committee reported a budget that provides privileged consideration of the President's $726 billion jobs and growth package.
Enzi addressed the need for drought assistance planning during Budget Committee proceedings yesterday by proposing a sense of the senate amendment that would direct Congress to develop a long-term drought plan and establish a reserve that would fund emergency and disaster assistance to livestock and agricultural producers hurt by drought.
"We have an opportunity to make a clear statement that we are systematically preparing for the negative impacts of drought and other disasters through a long-term strategy rather than knee-jerk reaction," said Enzi. "Good managers know their future expenses and prepare for them. Past experience tells us that drought somewhere within the United States is a reoccurring problem. Congress has been called upon to assist with drought recovery in the past and will be called upon in the future. Since this is the case, we should be prepared before it happens."
In a budget resolution, a sense of the senate provides guidance for other Senate committees to know that Budget Committee members had a strong position on a policy.
Other national priorities addressed in the resolution include, but are not limited to, the following.
The resolution proposes to invest $400 billion over 10 years to strengthen, improve and modernize Medicare, including access to a prescription drug benefit, enhanced benefits for medical care, catastrophic coverage and assistance to low-income beneficiaries. It also includes a $50 billion reserve fund to assist uninsured Americans in gaining access to quality, affordable health insurance. Wildfire Management
The resolution provides $2.6 billion for wildland fire management and $1 billion for fire suppression.
Included in the resolution is $102 million for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program which is $53 million more than the President's request. The EAS helps communities to continue to provide rural air service. Also included is $8.2 billion for the Federal Transit Administration.
For the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the resolution provides $1.1 billion. Indian school construction would also be supported and $346 million would be provided to improve academic performance at BIA schools and to eliminate the school maintenance and repair backlog.
The resolution provides about $12.7 billion for Title 1 Grants to Local Education Agencies and funding for special education grants to states. The resolution does not include the President's reduction for Impact Aid, but rather provides the same funding as last fiscal year.
The resolution proposes almost $29 billion for medical programs at the Department of Veteran's Affairs to help provide medical care to low-income and service-connected disabled veterans.
Enforcing Budget Discipline
Enzi said the ability to enforce the budget throughout the year is critical to controlling the growth of spending.
The expiration of the Budget Enforcement Act on September 30, 2002, and the Senate's failure to pass a budget resolution last year left little means to control federal spending. This budget restores and strengthens budget discipline by establishing enforceable caps on discretionary spending for 2003, 2004 and 2005, and renewing other mechanisms for budget enforcement.
"My top priority was to come up with rules that would provide parameters that the Appropriations Committee can work with to help meet a balanced budget as soon as possible," said Enzi. "I'm glad we had the mark-up this early because it will allow us to do the actual floor debate early and we may exceed the record for getting a budget done. Last year there was no budget at all, this year we'll hopefully have it done promptly. This is the way we provide constraints for spending by members of Congress and it's important that the rules we put into effect be there. The rules are just as important as the numbers we deal with."
Enzi said many people misunderstand that the Budget Committee only sets the limits for spending in broad spending categories and that committees of jurisdiction in particular areas authorize specific programs during the authorization stage. Only during the appropriations stage are actual dollars allocated to specific programs.
The resolution will be debated before the full Senate in the coming weeks.
For more information on the budget, please visit the Budget Committee web page at (http://www.senate.gov/~budget/republican).