WASHINGTON - Congress gave final approval yesterday to a $2.9 trillion budget plan that promises big spending increases for education and health care and a federal surplus in five years.

The Senate's 52-40 vote probably sets up veto confrontations with President Bush over spending increases and the fate of many of his expiring tax cuts.

Shortly before the Senate vote, the House passed the measure, 214-209, without a single Republican voting for it.

The nonbinding measure is not sent to Bush for his signature or veto. Rather, it sets parameters for Congress to follow when writing tax and spending legislation later this year.

The blueprint is for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. It also makes a statement about Democrats' differences with Bush and was seen as a critical test of Democrats' ability to govern.

The plan seeks to bolster domestic programs whose budgets Bush has curbed. It would let expire tax cuts that have greatly benefited upper-bracket taxpayers.

It would permit increases averaging 5 percent for domestic programs funded by the 12 annual appropriations bills. That includes education, community development grants, veterans' care, and health insurance for children of the working poor.

Bush wanted to effectively freeze such programs and has pledged to veto spending bills that break his budget goals.

Democrats said their measure would put the government $41 billion in the black by 2012, after steady deficits since 2002. They said it also would reverse Bush's clampdown on domestic agencies' annual budgets passed by Congress.

"Our budget does more for veterans' health care, more for more for children's health care, and more for education," said Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D., S.C.), chairman of the House Budget Committee.

The Democratic plan endorses Bush's 11 percent increase in the Pentagon's budget and his $145 billion request for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars next year.

Republicans criticized the plan as a major tax increase. They noted that it projects a surplus in 2012 by assuming that tax cuts on income, stock dividends and capital gains expire as scheduled at the end of 2010.

Democrats have promised to extend tax relief aimed at the middle class. That would include a 10 percent rate on the first $12,000 of a couple's income, and relief for married couples and people with children.

Republicans had hoped for permanent tax cuts when GOP lawmakers fashioned them in 2001, but an obscure Senate rule prevented that. Republicans never held later votes to make permanent all the cuts, despite Bush's pleas.

Republicans faulted the Democratic plan over its spending increases and for failing to address looming shortfalls in programs such as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.

The plan sets the stage for an $850 billion increase in the national debt - to $9.8 trillion. Under a House rule endorsed at different times by both Democrats and Republicans, adoption of the budget resolution means a separate bill to increase the debt limit is automatically passed and sent to the Senate.

How They Voted


(D., Pa.) and Joe Sestak (D., Pa.).