WASHINGTON - Congressional Republicans made progress on twin tracks Wednesday toward their end-of-year budget goals, passing a bill freezing or cutting back spending on medical research and education and nearing agreement on cuts to the Medicaid health-care program for the poor.
The first measure, a$602 billion bill funding a variety of health, education and labor programs, passed the House on a 215-213 vote. It would cut federal aid to education for the first time in a decade and spread $1.4 billion in cuts across the departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services.
U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, voted for the bill.
The separate budget bill is a cornerstone of the Republican agenda in Congress, and the House and Senate continued to struggle to find a way to advance a Senate plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., signaled he might try to move the hotly contested oil drilling plan from the budget cut bill to the must-pass defense budget bill, setting up a major confrontation with Democrats and a likely filibuster. But because the bill also carries new money for hurricane relief and to combat the avian flu, GOP leaders hoped they might be able to jam it through.
• The health, labor and education bill is HR 3010.