Kuhl backs $516B spending bill

Rob Montana

Months of political fighting have apparently eased as the House Democratic leadership conceded on several areas of contention with Republicans in passing a $516 billion spending plan for 11 of the 12 Cabinet departments.

President Bush has indicated he will sign the bill — once money is included to fund the war in Iraq — and it met the approval of U.S. Rep. Randy Kuhl, R-Hammonds-port, who voted in favor of it Monday. He wasn't alone, as the bill passed by a 254-153 margin Monday night. It had been introduced by the House Rules Committee just before midnight Sunday, and was brought to the floor for a whole House vote about 22 hours later.

“The passing of this omnibus spending bill ends the months of uncertainty for government agencies waiting to find out what their budget will be for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1,” Kuhl said in a prepared statement.

He noted a number of items included in the bill as positive, including $124 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs — of the total appropriation of $43.1 billion — to hire approximately 1,800 additional claims processors to reduce the benefit-claims backlog and shorten time to process new claims. In addition, Kuhl pointed out the bill will increase funding for No Child Left Behind programs by $24.8 billion, Pell Grant funding to $14.2 billion, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance funding to $2.6 billion, Social Security Administration funding to $9.7 billion, Department of Energy funding — including $1.7 billion for energy efficiency and renewable-energy programs — to $24.4 billion. The bill also will provide $1 billion in funding for improving bridge and highway infrastructure.

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