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HOUSE/SENATE BUDGET BILL CONFERENCE BEGINS OCT. 19

Executive Summary

HOUSE/SENATE BUDGET BILL CONFERENCE BEGINS OCT. 19 with opening statements from each of the chamber's budget committees. A primary issue to be worked out by conference participants is the size difference between the House and Senate bills. The Senate bill was stripped of all matters considered "extraneous" to actual deficit reduction before it was passed. Conferees will have to decide how, and if, the House bill can be reduced. Among the key provisions in the House bill that are not in the Senate version are a repeal of the Catastrophic Care Act and a permanent extension of the research and experimentation tax credits. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sasser (D-Tenn.) in his opening statement urged conferees to proceed on a "fast track" reconciliation process. He suggested that the committee "simply take from the two bills before us all those provisions that either cut spending or raise revenues -- something very like what was agreed to in the Senate last Friday -- and we take those programs and agree on them. We would then attach that package to an expedited leadership joint resolution that can be passed by both bodies and offered to the President for his signature by the middle of next week. The remaining elements of the previous House bill could be taken up on other vehicles as we see fit." House Budget Committee Chairman Panetta (D-Calif.), who has been appointed chairman of the conference, also urged speedy completion of the conference and indicated that he would meet with conferees early the week of Oct. 23 to receive a summary of their progress. Budget subconferences may meet early next week. Panetta and several other key conferees, including Rep. Stark (D-Calif.), have been absent from budget negotiations this week. The members returned to their districts to survey damage from the Oct. 17 earthquake in Northern California. House conferees on the fiscal 1990 budget reconciliation bill also include House Ways and Means Chairman Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) as well as two members who had sponsored repeal of the Medicare Castastrophic Care Act, Reps. Donnelly (D-Mass.) and Archer (R-Tex.). Ways and Means/Health Subcommittee ranking Republican Gradison (Ohio) will participate in the conference as representative of the House Budget Committee. Energy and Commerce Committee representatives include Chairman Dingell (D-Mich.) and Health Subcommittee Chairman Waxman (D-Calif.). The Senate appointed conferees from eight different committees. Finance Committee appointees include Chairman Bentsen (D-Tex.), Sen. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who chairs the Medicare and Long-Term Care Subcommittee, and Sen. Riegle (D-Mich.), who chairs the Health For Families and the Uninsured Subcommittee. The Senate budget reconciliation bill never contained a catastrophic care provision: the Senate's measure to severely reduce the catastrophic care program was passed as a separate bill introduced by Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) ("The Pink Sheet" Oct. 9, p. 13). When it stripped its budget reconciliation bill, the Senate deleted a provision permanently extending the R&E tax credit and a provision authorizing Medicare reimbursement of erythropoeitin (Amgen's Epogen) administered at home. The fate of the R&E tax credit and Epogen provisions in the Senate is unclear. While some Capitol Hill staffers are confident the measures will gain Senate approval by being added to another legislative vehicle, others are not convinced such a vehicle will be found in this congressional session. Only enactment of the budget reconciliation bill will stop across-the-board federal spending cuts implemented Oct. 17. The Senate is encouraging the House to find a way to remove extraneous provisions from its bill so that conference on the legislation will be relatively brief and uncomplicated.

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