Congress approves $388B spending measure

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Republicans sent a $388 billion spending bill through Congress on Saturday the cuts dollars for everything from education to environmental cleanups. The House approved the measure by a bipartisan 344-51 margin, while Senate passage was by 65-30.

Senate approval took longer because of disputes over provisions dealing with abortions and members of Congress' access to income tax returns. Leaders agreed to not send the spending package to President Bush for his signature until the tax returns issue is resolved in a separate bill, which the House is expected to pass on Wednesday.

Passage crowned the lame-duck session of Congress, which began last Tuesday.

Despite complaints the bill was too stingy, most Democrats supported it. The measure was a compendium of nine bills that Republicans found too contentious to complete before the elections.

Overall, the nine bills the measure combined were just 2 percent larger than last year's versions. To stay within the spending constraints Bush demanded, all programs in the bill eventually will be cut by at least 0.8 percent.

From an agriculture standpoint, efforts to extend some federal milk subsidies and repeal country-of-origin labels for many foods failed. But the Missouri Pork Producers Federation came away with $1 million to develop technology that would improve the environment by converting animal manure into energy.

To give White House officials time to review the bill, Congress approved a measure temporarily financing covered agencies through Dec. 3.

Associated Press/AP Online/Pork magazine

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