The House, rejecting President Bush's spending blueprint, approved a Democratic-crafted $1.4 trillion budget plan that provides less money for the nation's space program but more for education and health.
The Democrats' 1992 budget shifts about $10 billion in spending priorities recommended by the president in the budget he submitted to Congress in February.But both sides in the debate were operating under severe constraints imposed by last year's budget agreement that set spending limits over a five-year period in an effort to bring the federal deficit under control.
As a result, both the president's budget and the Democrats' plan would spend roughly the same amount during the fiscal year begining Oct. 1. The Democrats' budget produces a deficit of about $289 billion, while Bush's deficit would have been $279 billion.
By a vote of 335-89, the House first rejected the president's budget Wednesday and then approved the Democrats' plan, 261-163.
Rep. Leon Panetta, D-Calif., chairman of the House Budget Committee, told the House the committee's budget plan seeks to direct resources to "the needs of working families" with the basic focus on programs for children.
Much of the extra money for health, education, transportation and other programs comes from the space program. Bush recommended a 12 percent increase, in part to pay for the planned space station, but the Democrats' budget allows only a 4.2 percent incrase, just enough to keep pace with inflation.
The plan provides a $2 billion, or 9 percent, increase for education, which is triple the increase proposed in Bush's budget. The money would go for student aid, science and math teaching and special, vocational and adult education programs.
The program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) would get an increase of $350 million, $127 million more than Bush had recommended.
The bill adds $142 million to what Bush wanted for anti-drug programs, making a 12 percent increase over current spending, and allows a $597 million increase in highway funding and a $210 million increase for mass transit.
Bush also proposed a five-year $25 billion cut in Medicare costs, but that was dropped from the Democrats' budget.
Rep. Willis Gradison, R-Ohio, ranking Republican member of the Budget Committee, scoffed at the Democrats' plan, saying it is "designed to put them on the side of the angels," but makes only minor changes in Bush's budget.
"The differences between what the president's budget would do and what they would do are so slight I do not understand why they bother," Gradison said when the debate opened Tuesday.