There has not been significant movement on the FY 2002
appropriations bills during the last week. Congress has been
in session for only a few days this week. Attention is still
focused on national security problems. And the White House
and Congress are unable to decide on how much money the
government should spend in the new fiscal year that starts on

It is not unusual for appropriations bills to still be in a
state of limbo at this point. Deliberations are often long
and difficult, as the thirteen appropriations bills total
hundreds of billions of dollars, and often have major policy
implications. What makes this budget cycle so unpredictable
are the still to be determined strategies that will be used to
combat terrorism, and what will be the cost of those
strategies. Compounding this uncertainty is the weakening
economy, and the implications that it will have on federal
revenues and the size of the budget surplus.

Congress is, to some extent, returning to a more normal
schedule. Hearings are again being held on a wide range of
topics, and some legislation is moving on the floors. There
is talk about completing the education bill, and the
possibility of passing other legislation.

There is still a strong sense of bipartisanship in both
chambers, although some muted tones of discontent can be
heard. Fiscal conservatives have expressed concern that in a
rush to complete the appropriations bills federal spending
will greatly increase.

The most significant procedural hurdle is the still-to-be-
resolved discretionary spending number. The Office of
Management and Budget is now considering whether it should
accept a compromise figure of $686 billion arrived at by key
Republican and Democratic appropriators. This figure allows
for additional defense spending above that earlier requested,
up to $4 billion in additional education spending, and money
to resolve differences in how the House and Senate keep their
books. This figure is higher than what the White House and
some conservative Members of Congress are willing to readily
accept. The thinking is that without agreement on this
number, it makes less sense to write the final versions of the
appropriations bills. Key Senate appropriators from both
parties have expressed frustration about the lack of agreement
on this final number. The difference is $7 billion, or about
1% of the original figure.

Several of the major appropriations bills have not yet been
sent to one or both floors. They include the Defense and
Labor-Health and Human Services bills.

Most of the appropriations bills will likely remain in an
unfinished state for several weeks. In the meantime,
continuing resolutions will maintain government functions at
the current level of service.


Richard M .Jones

Public Information Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3095