Stevens seeking seat on Senate Budget Committee

Posted: Wednesday, January 24, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Sen. Ted Stevens is hoping to add another powerful committee to his assignments, but the Alaska Republican hasn't yet convinced the Senate majority leader to place him there.

Stevens has declined to say much about it, but he wants to sit on the Senate Budget Committee. That decision is up to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

Stevens is seeking to fill one of the seats opened by the defeat of three Republicans in the last election. Sens. Slade Gorton of Washington, Spencer Abraham of Michigan and Rod Grams of Minnesota lost their bids for re-election.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., claimed the seat of Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who retired. Democrats announced their committee picks almost two weeks ago.

Lott has not yet announced Republican appointments to the committee.

The Budget Committee writes the annual budget resolution setting limits on various categories of federal spending. Both houses of Congress then approve the resolution.

Stevens and Byrd, the ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, have expressed frustration with the budget resolution's limits.

Some categories of federal spending need to rise so agencies can deal with a growing national economy, Stevens said repeatedly during the past year.

In practice, the spending bills crafted by Stevens, Byrd and other Ap-propriations Committee members sometimes ignore the caps. If no one objects, then nothing happens.

The Congressional Budget Office's Web site indicates that Congress spent anywhere this fiscal year from $25 billion to $31 billion more than the original allocation of about $600 billion approved in last spring's budget resolution.

Ignoring the budget resolution is a politically sensitive subject and can be exploited by critics. Some oppose the additional spending while others object to how and where the additional money is spent.

The Budget Committee also works on changes in tax policy. Any legislation from President Bush seeking to implement a massive tax cut probably would land in the Senate Budget Committee.

Byrd, quoted in the Charleston (W.V.) Daily Mail earlier this month, said the Senate Budget Committee is growing in power.

''Increasingly, by setting parameters on what can and cannot be considered by other committees, the Budget Committee controls the agenda in the Senate,'' Byrd said.

The Senate Budget Committee will influence a variety of issues in the coming session, including education, national debt elimination, Social Security and Medicare, Byrd said.

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