House approves bills for schools, health, labor and foreign aid |

House approves bills for schools, health, labor and foreign aid

ALAN FRAM, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House approved a compromise bill Wednesday providing $123 billion for education, health and labor programs, outspending President Bush by billions as lawmakers sought to minimize clashes over social spending.

The legislation, approved 393-30, provides $11 billion more than last year’s measure and exceeds Bush’s request by $7 billion. The added funds reflected a desire to avoid partisan battling over routine government functions following the Sept. 11 attacks.

The extra money let lawmakers fatten spending for schools, biomedical research and job training. They also set aside nearly $1 billion for home-district projects.

“This truly is a people’s bill,” said Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, a chief author of the measure.

The House also voted 357-66 to pass a $15.4 billion foreign aid measure. It contains a slight cut in assistance to U.N. family planning programs, a bow to conservatives.

The House planned to complete the final spending bill for this fiscal year on Thursday — a $318 billion defense measure, to which a $20 billion anti-terrorism package is attached.

Senate passage of all three bills was possible Thursday. That would finish Congress’ work on the 13 annual spending bills for fiscal 2002 — which began on Oct. 1.

The measure financing education, labor and health would provide $48.9 billion for schools, 16 percent more than last year and 10 percent higher than Bush’s request.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., couldn’t resist making the political point that the compromise bill is “more responsive to the needs of the American people” than Bush’s proposal.

The measure includes substantial increases for research by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, retraining some jobless workers and Pell grants for low-income college students.

The legislation is dotted with hundreds of home-district projects for health care facilities; local job training, education and health care programs; and museum exhibits.

The Mind-Body Institute of Boston would get $800,000 for work with coronary patients, while Notre Dame University would get $220,000 for child abuse prevention. Twelve pages worth of hospitals and health care centers would get money for improvements totaling $312 million, though the earlier Senate bill had just $10 million and the House approved nothing.

The $1.2 billion school construction program was eliminated, but there is $50 million for building schools in Iowa, home state of Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin. He sponsored the bill and is strong supporter of the national program.

The foreign aid bill is $400 million higher than last year’s total and $200 million over Bush’s request.

The president’s $731 million plan for combatting illegal drugs produced in South America’s Andean nations was cut to $660 million. Israel would get more than $2.7 billion in military and economic aid and Egypt nearly $2 billion. Russia and other former Soviet states would get $784 million, while there is $229 million to help poor countries reduce their indebtedness.

The bill would provide $34 million to the U.N. Fund for Population Activities, a $3.5 million reduction demanded by conservatives who said the program helps finance abortions in China. Supporters of the program deny that.

Following Bush policy, that money — and $446.5 million for family planning programs run by the U.S. Agency for International Development — cannot go to groups that help provide abortions overseas.

The anti-terrorism bill provides $3.5 billion for the Pentagon, less than half of what Bush wanted. It also has $8.3 billion for preventing bioterrorism attacks and other domestic security programs, plus $8.2 billion for New York and other areas directly affected by the attacks — both exceeding what Bush sought.

The defense bill, along with military spending in other legislation, would bring Pentagon spending to $345 billion this year, about 15 percent over 2001.

Besides leasing 100 Boeing 767s and converting them to Air Force refueling tankers, the Defense Department would be allowed to lease four smaller 737s, which could be used by administration officials and lawmakers. Congressional aides said the 737s were supported by Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

The bill includes $881 million for countering terrorism, a 5 percent pay raise for military personnel and $7.8 billion for anti-missile defense, $500 million below Bush’s request.

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