Congress limps toward passage of 2003 budget

As the Bush administration unveiled its fiscal 2004 IT budget request last week, the Senate remained gridlocked over funding for this year.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) this month introduced an omnibus spending bill to quicken passage of the 11 civilian appropriations bills still in limbo.

President Bush signed the Defense Department appropriations bill and military construction legislation in October.

The House will wait until the Senate passes the bundled bill and then request a conference to iron out significant differences, a House Appropriations Committee spokesman said.

The goal, said a Senate Appropriations Committee aide, is to have the omnibus bill ready for President Bush's signature before his Jan. 28 State of the Union address. But that became more and more unlikely as the debate on the Senate floor continued last week.

Rolling resolutions

Agencies have worked under eight continuing resolutions since fiscal 2003 began Oct. 1.

The Senate failed to move any of the civilian agencies' bills to a full vote. Every bill got out of committee by July, but lawmakers never brought the legislation to the floor for a vote.

The Senate also could not pare down total spending, which the president wanted capped at about $385 billion. That number has since risen to $390 billion, and under the omnibus bill the Senate is considering, spending would reach about $389 billion, according to a Senate appropriations committee aide.

In the meantime, the Senate and House Appropriations committees will not consider the administration's 2004 budget request until Congress finalizes a 2003 budget.

'We will schedule no hearings nor do any analysis nor have any briefings from the administration until the 2003 budget is done,' a House Appropriations spokesman said.

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