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Press Release

    This Week On Capitol Hill

    01/15/2003

    Massive Spending Bill Rolling Your Way
    The Pittsburgh Steelers made the playoffs this year behind massive running back Jerome “The Bus” Bettis, but they’ve got nothing on Congress. The folks up on Capitol Hill are preparing an “Ominbus” Appropriations bill for nearly all 2003 discretionary spending. The Omnibus will roll through town carrying all 11 Appropriations bills that the 107th Congress didn’t finish—a total of $385 billion in spending. Despite the bill’s huge size, Senate Democrats are preparing an arsenal of amendments to add even more spending. The Omnibus may also attract a number of legislative “riders” from both Republicans and Democrats that attempt to make changes in non-spending laws like the Clean Air Act and the Energy Regulatory Commission.

    Senate Still Haggling Over Committee Splits
    The GOP is back in the majority in the U.S. Senate, but Republicans and Democrats are still sparring over the division of various Committee resources. Each Senate Committee gets a certain number of Senators from each party, and also divides the budget to hire staff. In recent years, the ratio between the two parties was based roughly on the overall split in the Senate, which is 51-49 in favor of Republicans. According to CQ Daily Monitor, one of the issues is a letter from John Rockefeller (D-WV) to Pat Roberts (R-KS) before the election. Rockefeller reportedly told Roberts he would only get 1/3 of Intelligence Committee resources if Democrats kept the Senate majority, which angered Republicans. When the dust settles (probably this week or next), they’ll end up at something pretty proportional.

    Amtrak to Get Even More Cash
    The Omnibus Appropriations bill reportedly includes $762 million for the financial black hole and customer service disaster known as Amtrak. That is a major increase over the amount the House passed last October, which was $438 million. (We think Amtrak should not get an operating subsidy from taxpayers.) Despite the apparent increase, Amtrak’s CEO David Gunn and Amtrak’s congressional supporters are still whining that anything less than a $1.2 billion subsidy will force the railroad to close. For taxpayers and rail users alike, closing Amtrak and letting private companies offer competing rail service would be a blessing.

    Welfare Fight Shaping Up
    Remember the landmark welfare reform bill of 1996? It able-bodied recipients had to actually work or enroll in job training, and gave welfare a time limit. That historic bill is set to expire this week. President Bush wants to reauthorize the bill and increase the work requirement from 30 hours a week to 40 hours a week. A 40 hour week would make welfare recipients work the same type of hours as most of the taxpayers who support them. Unfortunately, the poverty industry opposes increasing the work requirement, and will make other attempts to undo the homerun success of the 1996 reform bill.