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US Senate Passes Massive Government Spending Bill - 2003-01-24


The U.S. Senate has passed (69-29) a massive, $390 billion spending bill to fund federal agencies for the current budget year.

The sweeping bill combines 11 appropriations bills that stalled in Congress last year amid election-year political bickering over spending priorities. The measure funds all federal agencies except the Defense Department, whose budget was enacted last year.

Government agencies have been running on money appropriated through a series of emergency spending measures since the current budget year began October first.

President Bush, concerned about new federal deficits, had called for lower spending limits than many lawmakers including Republicans had wanted.

Democrats had sought increased funding for education and other social programs, but many of those efforts were rebuffed by the Republican-controlled chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee stood firm on maintaining spending limits. "We do not have unlimited money. We cannot solve every problem in the world, and not every problem can be solved by spending more money," he said.

Democrats even had trouble seeking more money for homeland defense. The Senate rejected amendments by Senator Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, to boost funds for better port and border security. "Not only has President Bush failed, failed, failed to lead the nation in addressing these vulnerabilities, he has in fact actively opposed efforts to provide the resources necessary to address these significant weaknesses," he said.

Republicans argued the bill contains adequate funding for domestic security for now, and that more money for homeland defense would be appropriated in next year's budget.

Among the many amendments that passed, one provides $180 million to fight AIDS in Africa, and another offers $165 million in additional funding for more effective screening of people entering the United States.

The House approved its own version of the overall spending measure. Negotiators from both chambers must reconcile differences in the legislation before sending a final bill to President Bush for his signature.

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