Friday, April 3, 2009

Obama’s $3.6T Budget Gets Congress Okay

April 3 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama got a pair of wins on Capitol Hill as the House and Senate approved drafts of his 2010 budget plan that largely adhere to the administration’s priorities.

The U.S. House yesterday approved a $3.55 trillion plan that echoes his calls for revamping the nation’s health-care system, rewriting education policies and reining in global warming. The vote was 233-196 with every Republican who voted opposing the plan.

Hours later the Senate passed its draft, 55-43, with no Republicans voting in favor and two Democrats, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Evan Bayh of Indiana, in opposition. Lawmakers will try to work out their differences later this month after returning from a two-week break that begins April 6, the Wall Street Journal reports. They have agreed to the President’s top priorities but lowered the budget submitted by Obama, who proposed boosting spending on basic domestic government by just over 10%.

The House version would raise such spending by 9.5% and the Senate by 7%. The $3.6 trillion budget calls for an increase in spending on health care, energy and education. Lawmakers, rejecting pleas by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, endorsed a non-binding amendment proposing to cut the estate tax beyond what the Obama administration proposed. The chamber voted 51-48 to increase the amount exempt from the tax to $5 million while reducing the levy to 35 percent.

The Obama administration would set the rate at 45 percent while exempting $3.5 million. “It’s so stunning, so outrageous that some would choose this hour of national crisis to push an amendment to slash the estate tax for the super-wealthy,” Reid, of Nevada, said just before the vote.

The Senate also urged the Federal Reserve to disclose more information about the aid it has provided to financial institutions. Another approved nonbinding amendment called for using remaining funds in the Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program to aid small businesses.