WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate panel divided along party lines Thursday to approve legislation funding President Barack Obama's health care and financial services overhaul laws and boosting spending on the IRS and Pell Grants for low-income college students.
The twin Appropriations Committee votes, 16-14, came on two spending bills for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, but there's virtually no chance the measures — or any of the 12 annual agency spending bills — become law by then. They now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Republicans uniformly opposed the measures, chiefly over money for health care and new Wall Street rules.
A $159 billion measure funding education and health programs would boost the maximum Pell Grant by $85 to $5,635. It also contains modest increases for health research and schools for the disadvantaged. Cuts proposed by Obama to energy subsidies for the poor were reversed, as was the administration's attempt to force big cuts to community services grants to local groups that serve the poor.
The Democratic-controlled panel awarded the IRS with a $702 million, 6 percent increase aimed at restoring cuts forced upon the agency over two budget cycles enacted since Republicans took over the House. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission would get a full 50 percent budget increase to cover its much-expanded portfolio of responsibilities since the financial services overhaul was passed two years ago. Likewise, the Securities and Exchange Commission would get a 19 percent increase.
The committee's debate was unusually partisan and spanned almost five hours as Republicans tried and failed to roll back portions of the health law and pro-union steps taken by the National Labor Relations Board. Business groups won over enough Democrats to delay controversial pro-labor rules for seasonal immigrant workers, however.