Bush Ready to Sign Off on Spending Bill

The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 31, 2007; 2:42 AM

WASHINGTON -- The White House has signaled its embrace of a $463.5 billion omnibus spending bill, removing doubts that the measure will soon be on President Bush's desk.

Many House Republicans will nonetheless oppose it, saying the measure is being rushed to the floor for a vote Wednesday without adequate time to read it and without the chance to offers changes during floor debate.

Some of the harshest criticism came from an unusual source, former Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis of California, typically an easygoing sort whose loyalties are torn between GOP leaders and the powerful Appropriations Committee. He tore into the Democrats for skipping "any prior debate whatsoever and ... the opportunity to offer even one amendment on the floor."

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey countered that the bill is simply "the last remaining legislation that needs to be passed to clean up the mess left to us by the past Congress."

Senate Republicans declined to put any real effort into passing eight of 11 spending bills before the November election and didn't try at all afterward.

The House Rules Committee, dominated by Democrats, issued a rule governing floor debate that denies Republicans any chance to amend the 137-page measure, which covers 13 Cabinet departments covering the budgets for every domestic agency except for the Department of Homeland Security.

Debate will last one hour.

Through a spokesman, Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., declined to provide a list of amendments that her Republican rivals had hoped to offer on the floor.

While Republicans complained bitterly about how the bill came together, it is, generally speaking, a GOP-tilting measure keeping to the same overall "cap" insisted upon by Bush and congressional Republicans last year.

Most agencies and programs are kept frozen at last year's budget levels, but Obey and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., negotiated a scores of exceptions for agencies and programs that required increases to avoid imposing furloughs and hiring freezes, or cutting critical services such as medical care for veterans.

Many of the increases came at the expense of White House priorities such as foreign aid and a big Pentagon base closing initiative approved by Congress less than two years ago.

The pending bill has something to please _ and offend _ every lawmaker, but the overall feeling is simply one of relief that the uncertainty of last year's unresolved budget will soon be gone.

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