The bright lights of the House Democrats' 100-hour agenda are in the rearview mirror. From here on, what will the new majority in
The answer surfaced this week as Congress produced a hurry-up package costing $463.5 billion.
It almost didn't happen. Last fall, Republicans left town without nailing down a spending plan. When they returned, the Democrats were in charge. A rush job was ordered: With little time for hearings and chin-stroking thought, the majority needed a spending plan in line with party priorities and also honored a 'pay-as-you-go' pledge not to increase spending without finding new revenue.
Education, veterans and overseas AIDS programs were all due more funds, but would they get it? Now comes the answer -- much of it good -- for these programs.
Veterans' benefits for health and schooling will grow by nearly $7 billion. This category, usually above politics, was the least likely to suffer.
Democrats asserted themselves on Pell Grants, money that is given to needy college students. The increase wasn't much -- a boost of $260, bringing a grant up to $4,310 -- but it's the first rise in four years.
On AIDS, the White House has committed to a five-year plan costing $15 billion in foreign aid. This year's request for $4.5 billion will be fully funded. Another $724 million will go to the internationally run Global Fund to battle malaria and TB along with AIDS.
It's a strong signal that debate is over this year about paying for a worldwide fight against a disease that infects 40 million people, most of them in the poorest nations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came through on yet another early test of her leadership.