WASHINGTON -- Pent-up demand for social welfare spending burst forth yesterday as Senate and House negotiators agreed on $22.6 billion more for a wide range of domestic programs in this fiscal year than in the year that ended Sept. 30.
The agreement, on the appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services, was struck by members of both houses' appropriations committees. It would provide $182 billion for the three departments in the 1991 fiscal year, an increase of 14 percent over 1990.
The full House quickly approved the bill yesterday afternoon. Senate approval is expected, as is President Bush's signature.
Among the features of the bill are a 26 percent expansion in the Head Start preschool program, an increase in funds for the education of poor children and the disabled, subsidized child care for low-income families, and a new program to help detect cancer in women.
The agreement was reached as other congressional negotiators, wrestling with the overall federal budget, continued efforts to work out a compromise on tax increases and program cuts to reduce the projected deficit by about $40 billion this year and $500 billion over five years.
Yesterday's accord was not in direct conflict with that larger effort, since deficit reduction involves lowering projected deficit levels that would result if no action were taken to trim them and does not imply any decline in spending totals from one year to the next, either in the overall budget or within individual programs.
Indeed, the increased spending to which the appropriations negotiators agreed yesterday fit within guidelines contained in the budget framework approved by Congress earlier this month.
Therefore, said Representative William H. Natcher, D-Ky., this spending does not disrupt efforts to control the deficit in the 1991 fiscal year.
Mr. Natcher is chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that handles spending for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services.
Still, the bill illustrates to some extent the circular nature of a problem faced by lawmakers: As they try to keep spending down, they are continually making commitments to spend more this year and in the future.
Representative Bill Frenzel of Minnesota, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, said the appropriations bill was "simply engendering greater expenses for the future, building higher aspirations on the part of all the interest groups."
But the larger congressional mood that led to passage was expressed by Representative Silvio O. Conte, R-Mass. He said the bill "does not go far enough" with new spending to meet the nation's social needs.
The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative Jamie L. Whitten, D-Miss., completing his 49th year in Congress, said, "It is fine to keep a balanced budget. But we could leave our children all the money in the world, let our health go down, let our education slide, let our highways and bridges deteriorate, let our rivers and harbors silt in, and all the paper money we can print would not give us a strong country.
"The programs in this bill are a must" because they nourish the strength and health of the nation, Mr. Whitten said.
In the last few days, House and Senate negotiators have also approved a bill that would upgrade the title of the No. 2 official in four Cabinet departments from undersecretary to deputy secretary, a change that would ensure each of them a raise of about $30,000 next year.
An undersecretary receives an annual salary of $89,000, to be increased next year to $111,300. A deputy secretary receives $96,600, which will be increased next year to at least $120,800.
The officials who benefit are responsible for the heart of the nation's domestic policy agenda, at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Interior, and Housing and Urban Development.