Washington, D.C. – On January 6th, Congress reconvened and began its 108th session. The first order of business for Congress will be to pass an FY03 appropriations package. Last year, Congress adjourned after only passing two of the thirteen appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government in fiscal year 2003. The government has been funded by a series of continuing resolution. Congress passed the ninth such resolution on January 9th. This most recent resolution will allow the government to continue operating until January 31st.
Congressional leaders and appropriators spent their first week back in Washington putting the final touches on an all-encompassing omnibus package for the remaining FY03 spending bills. Congress approved the defense department and military construction appropriations bills. The remaining appropriations contain many programs that are important to the fire services. Foremost among these programs is the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (the FIRE Act). In the original FY03 VA/HUD appropriations bills the Senate Appropriations Committee funded the program at the fully authorized amount of $900 million. The House Committee on Appropriations funded the program at $450 million, $90 million more than the program received in FY02. Senator Ted Stevens (AK), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has said he expects the committee to vote on the spending package as early as next week.
Other bills that may come before Congress this session include:
- the Hometown Heroes Survivors Act,
- the Firefighter Research and Coordination Act,
- USFA Reauthorization,
- technical corrections to the Department of Homeland Security Act,
- legislation regarding federal excess and surplus property.