September 6, 2002
Regula battles for more spending for education
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — Conservative Republicans have won an early round in a spending fight that for now is depriving U.S.Rep. Ralph Regula, a powerful member of the House Appropriations Committee, from spending as much on teacher training and other pet projects as he would like.
As chairman of a key Appropriations subcommittee, Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, was looking forward to shaping a
$130 billion-plus appropriations bill for next year that finances federal spending on health, education and job training.
In addition to paying for operations at the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services, the bill finances research and treatment at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Earlier this week, Regula at least temporarily relinquished control of the legislation as he and Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. “Bill” Young, R-Fla., sent the president’s version of the bill to the full House.
They did so in response to a promise by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. Hastert pledged in July that the bill would not exceed President Bush’s proposed $129.9 billion spending level when sent to the House floor. Hastert, under pressure from House conservatives, also promised the bill would be the first appropriations measure to be considered by the House after the Labor Day recess.
Regula thinks the bill needs at least an additional $2 billion in spending to finance teacher development, aid to college
students, job training and other priorities important to him.
“Out in our area we have a lot of layoffs,” said Regula. “These people need the opportunity to acquire some skills to be
A Senate version of the same appropriations bill would cost $134.4 billion, but it still must go before the full Senate.
House conservatives such as Rep. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., have grown increasingly worried as they watched powerful lawmakers who sit on the Appropriations Committee propose higher spending than what the House authorized or the president requested.
So far this year, the House has passed five of the 13 appropriations bills needed to finance the federal government. Several of those bills exceed Bush’s budget for those programs.
In July, the conservatives held up passage of the Interior appropriations bill before the full House until Hastert agreed to
hold down spending on the labor-health-education bill.
“What we’re saying is, ‘Let’s tighten our belts a little bit,’ ” said Toomey, who is among the members of the conservative
Republican Study Committee. “You can’t just keep growing all parts of the government at three or four times the rate of inflation the way we have in recent years.”
Regula considers himself a fiscal conservative, but he’s also a social moderate, he added.
“I’m concerned about programs like job training and Pell grants (financial aid for college students) and retaining top quality teachers,” he said. “To me, those are important and that’s part of the social fabric of this nation, to give every child a chance.”
Toomey countered that with a weaker economy and the war on terrorism, it is even more important to keep spending under control.
“We have urgent priorities in the form of a big increase in defense spending, big increases for homeland security,” he said. “We want to do a very generous prescription drug plan we passed in the House. We cannot afford to be spending enormous amounts of money everywhere.”
While the Appropriations Committee sent the Bush version of the spending bill to the House, it’s still possible that the committee will craft its own version.
Hastert is insisting that the committee “mark up,” or shape, the bill before the House votes on it. But so far, there’s no agreement on if or when the committee will take on that task.