2000 Budget On Schedule In Congress

Unlike many other Congresses, the 106th Congress is following its statutory timetable in passing a federal budget for the next fiscal year. The House and Senate made that possible Mar. 26 before recessing for their two-week Easter break by adopting fiscal 2000 budget resolutions, which set parameters for the tax and individual appropriation bills that will be debated in the next few months. Differences in the separate resolutions will be reconciled by a House-Senate conference committee due to begin meeting when legislators return Apr. 5. The committee is expected to agree upon a single version that will be passed by both chambers by the statutory -- but often violated -- Apr. 15 deadline. Business organizations generally support the resolutions, which passed each House by nearly party-line votes. The National Assn. of Manufacturers hails provisions that cut taxes and the national debt, reserve 100% of the Social Security trust fund surplus to "fix the system," and provide funds for education and defense. The U.S. Chamber of Congress observes that "Congress is on the right track" and applauds the overwhelming bipartisan rejection of President Clinton's budget proposal -- particularly the provision calling for Social Security proceeds to be invested in the stock market. Still, the differences between the President's proposal and the likely final Congressional resolution "are not large," analyzes the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a business-backed Washington, D.C., group that lobbies for fiscal discipline. "The Republican Congressional resolutions would spend less, tax less, and reduce the debt more than the President's budget proposes. The President's budget would earmark a greater share of economic output to pay for federal programs."

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