Both houses of Congress moved yesterday to complete action on a package of spending cuts and revenue increases designed to reduce the federal budget deficit over the next three years.
In the Senate, the legislation would cut $85.7 billion from the deficit over the next three years. The House package, which includes the bill considered yesterday and two related measures, would result in $78 billion in reductions over the period.
The reductions, which both chambers are expected to vote on this week, would implement at least part of the three-year, $276 billion deficit-reduction plan that Congress approved during the summer.
The rest of the reductions would come from savings Congress would have to approve in annual spending bills, particularly the large defense appropriation.
During House debate on the bill, which began yesterday, Budget Committee Chairman William H. Gray III (D-Pa.) said, "today we have an opportunity to live up to a commitment we made on Aug. 1," when the House adopted the congressional budget plan.
To achieve the promised deficit reductions, the House bill would alter existing law to save money on a variety of social programs. For example, it would impose a means test on certain medical programs for veterans, force all students applying for Guaranteed Student Loan program to go through a financial needs analysis and cancel scheduled increases in highway and bridge programs.
While the measure contains overall reductions in spending, it also provides funding for several new programs, particularly in the area of housing. A GOP-sponsored amendment expected today would strike all new programs and new funding from the bill.
The Senate bill, which has been debated off and on all week, would affect many of the same programs but over three years make deeper cuts.