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House passes 1-percent budget cut

The new Budget Resolution calls for ag spending reductions of $18.62 billion over the next 10 years or about $1.1 billion less than the House Budget Committee’s $19.7 billion. While it is non-binding, the Budget Resolution sets spending targets for each authorizing committee.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia has pledged that he will try to meet the Budget Committee’s spending goals.

Two groups of farm organizations had sent letters to House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, asking the House to reject the Budget Committee blueprint. But the House passed the slightly revamped measure by a vote of 215-212.

Sources said House Republicans who might have voted against the measure were under pressure from the White House not to deliver a setback to the president at the beginning of the war.

The Budget Resolution directs the House Agriculture Committee to develop changes in the laws under its jurisdiction to lower spending by the required amounts no later than July 18. Those include a $600 million reduction in FY 2004; $5.53 billion between FY2004-08; and $18.62 billion between FY 2004-13.

The House Budget Committee version of the Resolution required a 1 percent reduction in mandatory program spending for all authorizing committee’s that would have resulted in the $19.7 billion cut for agriculture.

Although Democrats attempted to force the GOP leadership to cut them in half, the House Budget Resolution contains the $726 billion in tax cuts sought by the president.

House leaders reportedly agreed to lower program cuts to Medicare and Veterans’ benefits to win the deciding votes for the Resolution. The House bill also provides $400 billion to create a prescription drug benefit for senior citizens.

Later today, the Senate was expected to pass a FY 2004 Budget Resolution that does not contain the 1 percent across-the-board reduction in mandatory spending of the House measure but may include new, tighter payment limits for farm programs.

Farm-state senators and farm organizations were attempting to persuade a majority of senators to delete the payment limit language introduced by Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley during its Budget Committee deliberations.


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