According to the Washington Post, they have now finished the conference:
House and Senate negotiators reached agreement last night on a $94.5 billion package to pay for Iraq war and hurricane recovery costs, after shaving numerous extraneous provisions that the Senate had wanted to stuff into the bill.
The agreement came after long negotiations. Some Republicans in the Senate, including Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, who represents storm-ravaged Mississippi, had viewed the must-pass bill as an opportunity to address other pressing needs. The Senate bill wound up exceeding Bush's original $92.2 billion request by $14 billion.
Two particularly aggregious items were removed:
One item dropped from the bill: $700 million for a railroad relocation project along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The compromise package also trimmed $1.2 billion from the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster fund, which provides individual assistance and pays for debris removal. And it struck language that would have compelled the Pentagon to cover hurricane damage to shipyard facilities that would otherwise be covered by private insurance -- a provision that budget watchdog groups have pounced on as a perk for a major Northrop Grumman facility in Pascagoula, Miss.
Instead, the final language included $140 million for the Navy to help with infrastructure improvement costs related to Katrina. This money would be available to shipbuilders in the Gulf Coast who had existing Navy contracts and suffered storm damage.
The railroad provision was to build a new railroad parallel to an existing railroad that was just repaired with $250,000 million in federal money.
It's good to see that, finally, Republicans are showing a little bit of the conservative spirit that was why they were elected in the first place. And it's good to see the Senate once again put in it's place. When the senate is evenly divided, with their rules about 60 votes needed, it's just tailor-made for "compromise" that means taxpayers are constantly under threat.
Oh: The savings from the Senate version amounts to about $40 bucks per american family. So go to your favorite restaurant and celebrate.