The Senate late Tuesday approved a catch-all spending bill that funds HHS at $65.6 billion for fiscal 2008, and includes funds for 10 other federal agencies. Senators voted 76-17 to approve the massive $560 billion omnibus bill after agreeing to include $70 billion in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House on Monday voted 253-154 to pass the bill, however, it will have one last vote on the measure later today.
The legislative package adds roughly $5.5 billion more for medical research, veterans healthcare, community health centers and rural hospitals to the original spending blueprint offered by the White House. Overall, the bill would fund HHS at $65.6 billion, up about 2.3% or about $1.5 billion more than the departments 2007 budget. Of that, federally funded community health centers would receive $2.1 billion and the 1,200 or so small and rural hospitals would receive $287 million to improve access and outreach efforts.
The bill also provides $43.1 billion for the Veterans Affairs Department, up about 18% or $6.6 billion more than in 2007 and $3.7 billion over President Bushs request. The Veterans Health Administration will receive the majority of that funding, taking in $37.2 billion to help treat the 5.8 million patients who are expected next year. -- by Matthew DoBias