- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2000

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mayor Anthony A. Williams secured an agreement from congressional leaders yesterday that freed the District's $4.8 billion 2001 budget from the legislative morass now engulfing the Capitol.

"We are very happy to get the bill out," Mrs. Norton, a Democrat and nonvoting member of Congress, said after leaving meetings in the office of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat.

Pursuant to yesterday's agreement, the legislation passed both the House and Senate without debate and without a vote. The president is expected to sign the bill.

Mr. Williams, a Democrat, said enacting the budget is urgent, if only for a provision that will allow reform of the District's Health and Hospitals Public Benefit Corporation.

"D.C. [General] Hospital is burning a $300,000 hole in the budget every month, and the situation goes critical sometime in December," Mr. Williams said as he departed the Capitol yesterday.

The legislation in question includes $445.5 million in federal appropriations to the District and authorizes the $4.8 billion D.C. budget worked out earlier this year between the mayor and the D.C. Council.

The federal contribution includes $25 million for a new Metro station on New York Avenue, $3.45 million for environmental cleanup of "brownfields" environmentally tainted sites that usually have been abandoned by the companies that used them and $17 million for college tuition-assistance programs for D.C. children.

Mrs. Norton praised Republican and Democratic leaders from both the House and Senate, saying the agreement would not have been possible without their cooperation.

The District's budget has been held up in Congress as Republicans sought to use it as a vehicle for the other fiscal 2001 spending bills.

The fiscal year started Oct. 1, and there was hope that the entire federal budget, including the District's, finally would clear this week.

But on Monday, congressional leaders announced they would soon adjourn until Dec. 5 without completing spending-bill negotiations. That increased pressure to free the District's budget from the other outstanding spending bills.

"The mayor laid out the case why this budget is needed sooner rather than later," said David Marin, spokesman for Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican. "The bottom line was that the city couldn't wait until December, when the the other appropriations bills would be taken up."

Over the last month, Mr. Davis has worked on the city's behalf, persistently pushing Mr. Hastert to pass the District's budget.

In the Senate, Republicans had attached another spending bill to the District's budget in hopes of overcoming parliamentary hurdles being raised by Democrats.

But Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, said yesterday there was no trade-off for taking up the bill in the Senate.

"We felt the mayor and the District deserved our support," said Mr. Craig, who chairs the Senate Republican Policy Committee. "[They] are working through some reforms that collectively are good for the nation's capital."

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, agreed that passage of the bill is important for the city but said it is also "a good-faith demonstration that the [entire federal budget] process is moving along."

• Daniel F. Drummond contributed to this article.

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