The House finalized provisions for a massive domestic spending bill that reverses several White House-championed cuts and adds roughly $5.5 billion more than President Bushs original budget blueprint for medical research, veterans healthcare, community health centers and rural hospitals.The House last night approved the bill, 253-154, which funds HHS and 11 other federal Cabinet agencies.
The Senate is expected to begin debate on the bill today.
Overall, the bill would fund HHS at $65.6 billion for fiscal 2008, about $1.5 billion more than the departments 2007 budget. Of that, federally funded community health centers would receive $2.1 billion or $77 million more than they did in 2007, and the 1,200 or so small and rural hospitals would receive $287 million to improve access and outreach efforts.
The bill, which includes the budgets for 11 of the 12 Cabinet departments, would provide $43.1 billion for the Veterans Affairs Department, or $6.6 billion more than its 2007 dollars and $3.7 billion more than the presidents request. The lions share of the total allocation, $37.2 billion, is earmarked for the Veterans Health Administration. The VA estimates it will treat more than 5.8 million patients in 2008, including more than 263,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan54,000 more than fiscal 2007.
The $516 billion omnibus bill, which includes the budgets for 11 of the 12 Cabinet departments, stays largely within Bushs demands. The House is likely to pass the measure Tuesday, sending it to the Senate for possible add-ons later this week. -- by Matthew DoBias
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