House Approves 2003 Budget PlanDemocrats deem budget insufficient to meet educational needs
The full House of Representatives approved a 2003 budget plan with a small increase for minority-serving colleges after brushing back efforts to add more money for Pell Grants to the plan.The 221-209 vote was largely along party lines, as Republicans endorsed the budget blueprint while Democrats called it insufficient to meet educational needs. Before the vote, the House Budget Committee defeated a plan to include in the budget a $500 increase in the maximum Pell Grant. The White House plan would keep Pell at the current $4,000 maximum.The Alliance for Student Aid, an organization representing many higher education associations, is pushing for a $500 increase in the maximum Pell Grant next year. While Republican leaders praised the budget for including a 3.6 percent increase for Black colleges and Hispanic-serving institutions as well as for providing a small increase for Head Start and several other programs, some Congressional Black Caucus members called the overall numbers inadequate to improve education.“It can hardly be called a budget — that implies some logic and order to the document,” says Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. “Republicans have filled this budget with ‘fuzzy math’ in order to say that it is balanced and fair.”According to Waters, Congress and the administration squandered much of a $5 trillion surplus on the 2001 tax cuts. “To protect those tax cuts, President Bush and Republicans in Congress have advocated a budget that cuts and slashes hundreds of millions of dollars from domestic programs.” She noted that overall federal education funding is “barely increased,” despite passage of recent legislation overhauling K-12 education.But Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., a senior GOP leader, chided Democrats for criticizing the president’s plan without putting forth one of their own. “Where is the Democrats’ plan? Where is their budget? And the fact is they have no budget. That tells the American people there is no vision.”Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, another Black Caucus member, took issue with that GOP view. “Democrats cannot have a plan because the Republicans and the administration have squandered the surplus,” she says.The Democrat-controlled Senate must approve its budget resolution, which is currently under discussion. Both chambers then may meet to bridge differences on their plans for the 2003 fiscal year.
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