- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2000

House lawmakers on Capitol Hill are scheduled to pick up debate today where they left off on the District of Columbia's $4.8 billion budget bill battling over social riders and federal spending.

Members heavily debated social riders to the appropriations bill in July, including funding needle-exchange programs and the city's contraceptive bill.

Rep. Ernest Istook, Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District, and other Republicans added several social riders to the bill during subcommittee meetings and markup as Congress continued its session yesterday..

"This bill could have passed in July instead we had an in-your-face approach," said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a democrat and the District's nonvoting congressional representative.

One Republican amendment would prevent needle-exchange programs from operating near schools, day care centers, parks, and arcades among other sites.

Democrats argue that such a clause would essentially kill the program because there would be virtually no place for needle exchanges to be run.

"[Mr. Istook] could have had the votes before with a little consultation and flexibility," Mrs. Norton said. "Unless things change, we can't change," she said.

The House delayed a vote on the District's $414 million federal package for the summer recess in late July. Democrats said the vote was delayed because Republicans could not find the votes to support their initiatives.

House Democrats and the Clinton administration oppose the bill's current form because it lacks funding for certain programs and imposed in home-rule matters. The bill the House will debate is more than $30 million short of the District's request and the budget proposed by the White House.

One hot issue that remains is the $18 million shortfall for a proposed New York Avenue Metro station.

The Metro issue takes up the source of funds to pay for the federal share of the $84 million project. The cost originally was estimated at $75 million, with the federal government and the city property owners around the proposed station each expected to pitch in $25 million.

But the subcommittee voted in July to fund only $7 million directly for the subway station, saying the remaining $18 million would come from interest earned from a city escrow account controlled by the control board.

Mrs. Norton, the control board and city officials contend that the earned interest comes from city money, which has been earmarked for spending. Mr. Istook insisted the money was earned from federal payments to the District.

Mr. Istook was unavailable for for comment.

This time around, the District's controversial contraceptive bill shouldn't be a holdup. Republicans wanted the city to add a "conscience clause" exemption for religious organizations to the D.C. Council measure that would have required all health insurance plans that cover prescription drugs to pay for birth-control pills and other contraceptive devices available by prescription.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams pocket-vetoed the D.C. Council bill by not signing it, making the issue moot.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide