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Budget Cap Battle Is Coming to a Head

The Budget
Eric Pianin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 18, 1999; Page A4

The debate within Congress over whether to continue operating under tight budget caps is about to boil over. House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) said yesterday it would be virtually impossible to stay within those limits and pass all 13 spending bills for fiscal 2000.

At issue are bipartisan spending limitations enacted in 1997 that are pinching programs even as the budget surplus grows. The White House and most Republican and Democratic congressional leaders publicly favor retaining the caps, reluctant to dip into surpluses generated by the Social Security trust fund. But appropriators insist this is unrealistic and would force draconian cuts in domestic programs.

Young intends to force the issue Wednesday by proposing to allocate the $538 billion of available funds for fiscal 2000 in a way that would ensure passage of the defense and military construction bills and several others, but would fall short of the levels in a half dozen other bills, including labor, health, education and human services.

Young plans to specify $78.1 billion for labor and health, or $10.7 billion less than this year, according to Associated Press.

"I've been trying to provide real numbers to anyone who would listen on what the requirements are and what the available funding profile is," Young said yesterday.

Even if Congress were to freeze fiscal 2000 spending at current levels, it would exceed the budget caps by $17 billion, according to Appropriations Committee estimates. Congress this week will alleviate some pressure by passing an emergency spending bill providing about $10.8 billion in defense spending for the war in Kosovo and military pay raises outside of the caps.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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