Democrats offer fiscal 2007 joint funding bill

House and Senate Democrats banded together to write a $463.5 billion measure to complete appropriations bills left over from last year. The House is expected to consider it tomorrow.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Obey (D-Wis.) co-wrote the measure, which he filed yesterday, with Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.).

To avoid a partial government shutdown, Congress must complete work on funding by Feb. 15, when the current continuing resolution expires.

Last year, the Republican leadership was unable to complete work on nine of the 11 annual appropriations bills. In December, Byrd and Obey announced a plan to wrap up the bills in a joint funding resolution.

'This legislation is a good step forward for the nation. But, in order to meet the challenges ahead in our economy, in technology and in security, we must not settle for 'good enough,'" Byrd said.

The legislation remains within the overall budget cap established by the Republican-led 109th Congress.

Under the measure, most programs will continue to be funded at the 2006 levels adjusted for increased pay costs. Limited adjustments were made within the confines of the Republican budget resolution to increase funding for veterans and military health care, public housing, scientific research, and for the Labor, Health and Education bill to keep up with inflation, Obey said.

Among major IT projects, the measure also includes $100 million to proceed with Sentinel, the FBI's system to move to electronic data sharing from paper-based case management.

Last fall, the Senate Appropriations Committee agreed to provide $40 million for the Sentinel case management system on top of $100 million in reprogrammed 2006 funds. By contrast, the House passed a $100 million increase for Sentinel on top of the reprogrammed funds. The Senate panel said it expected the FBI to recover funds from the contractor for Sentinel's failed predecessor, the Virtual Case File system, and use that money to help pay for the new system.

The Office of Personnel Management has $6.9 million available for the Enterprise Human Resources Integration project and $1.4 million for the Human Resources Line of Business, similar to what the Senate committee bill last fall also contained.

The recent explosion in earmarks left Congress unable to ensure the integrity of the system and public confidence is at an all time low, Obey said. The chairmen decided to place a moratorium on the practice until a new, reformed process is fully in place. The joint resolution is free of earmarks.

'I don't expect people to love this proposal; I don't love this proposal, and we probably have made some wrong choices,' Obey said in a statement. 'But in contrast to last year's Congress, which decided to duck these choices, at least we have made them in order to bring last year's issues to a conclusion so we can turn the page and deal with next year's priorities.'

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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