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Optical Design & Engineering

Congress passes budget resolutions

The U.S. Senate Wednesday approved a budget resolution for the 2009 fiscal year that would significantly increase federal funds for education and scientific research. The House of Representatives approved it on Thursday.The plan sets ceilings for broad categories of spending, but does not spell out specific amounts for individual programs, Congressional appropriators will use it as a guide when they draw up spending bills for the coming fiscal year, which begins October 1.

The resolution would provide $84.3 billion in discretionary spending for education, training, employment, and social services, a category that includes the Education Department. That total is $8.4 billion, or 5.9 percent, more than President Bush requested for 2009, and $8.2 billion, or 5.6 percent, above this year's spending level. The resolution would provide $59.7 billion in discretionary spending for health -- $7 billion, or 13.3 percent, more than the president requested and $6.5 billion, or 12.2 percent, over the current spending level.

Lawmakers may begin debating a series of spending bills as early as next week, but it's unlikely many of those measures will make it through Congress before the November election. With presidential veto threats, lawmakers may choose to finance the government through a series of continuing resolutions until the next president takes office in January. Under that scenario, federal spending could remain frozen at its current level well into 2009.

Budget story from the Chronicle of Higher Education.