The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a $602 billion spending bill that provides $2 billion to help low-income consumers pay their winter heating and summer cooling bills in fiscal year 2007.

The House panel authorized spending of $2.1 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in fiscal 2007, which is about even with funding for the current year and $329 million above the Bush administration’s budget request. The LIHEAP allocation was included in the appropriations bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education.

The approved funding is far below the level that the American Gas Association requested for LIHEAP. The group, which represents natural gas utilities, last week recommended full LIHEAP funding of $5.1 billion as authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Tuesday’s vote was a “disappointment” for AGA, but it is only “the first step and we plan to aggressively lobby” for more money for LIHEAP in fiscal year 2007, said AGA spokeswoman Daphne Magnuson. At a minimum, the group hopes Congress will match the fiscal year 2006 funding level for LIHEAP of $3.2 billion, which included a $1 billion supplemental appropriation, she noted.

The Senate has repeatedly supported $5.1 billion in funding for LIHEAP, but the Republican leadership and the White House have blocked it. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to take up LIHEAP in July.

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