- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 10, 2001

The Senate today will consider competing plans to further beef up defense spending in the remaining months of fiscal 2001.
The Bush administration has asked for an extra $5.8 billion to supplement the $289 billion Congress approved last fall in the fiscal 2001 defense-appropriations bill.
But senators will seek still more today as the Senate considers up to 14 amendments to a $6.5 billion supplemental-spending bill for fiscal 2001.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, has asked for another $3 billion for weapons procurement and operations. And Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, has offered an amendment asking for another $1.5 billion, but only for operating and maintenance needs.
"We need to stop kicking the can down the road. We must act now," Mr. Bond said yesterday, warning that there may be competing interests in fiscal 2002 that could rob the Defense Department of the money it needs.
Supporters of the Bond amendment argue that additional funds for operations and maintenance are needed in fiscal 2001. However, they do not believe there is enough time left in this fiscal year to make weapons purchases, so there is no reason to set aside extra money for weapons procurement, as the McCain amendment would do.
The supplemental-spending bill includes another $1.6 billion for programs outside of defense. About $1 billion of that would go to pay for veterans' benefits increased by Congress last year.
The House's version of the bill would cut $389 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Senate bill includes no such provision and it is likely that the Senate will consider today an amendment that would increase FEMA funds in light of the damage caused earlier this year by Tropical Storm Allison.
Both the House and Senate would appropriate $116 million to send out rebate checks reflecting the retroactive tax cut enacted this spring.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, offered an amendment that would block the Internal Revenue Service from sending out a separate letter telling people to expect the check. Democrats say that the proposed letter, which notes that the rebate was made possible by President Bush, is too political.
The letter's proponents note that at least one tax-rebate scam has targeted people in Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Missouri. Official-looking letters mailed from Boca Raton, Fla., to residents in those states offered information about the size of the rebate and "to assure proper delivery" for a $12.95 fee.
A letter from the IRS, telling people the size of the rebate they are set to receive and that they need to take no further action to get it, would prevent confusion and preclude other scams, a Treasury spokeswoman said yesterday.
Voting on amendments was postponed until today at the earliest.
Amendments adopted yesterday by unanimous consent would provide $8 million to repair storm damage to Ellington Air National Guard Base in Texas and Fort Sill in Oklahoma. And the Bassett Army Hospital in Fort Wainwright, Alaska, would get an extra $215 million for an unspecified construction project.
The Senate also accepted an amendment that would require the District of Columbia's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to use savings due to vacancies in its ranks to implement the "Abatement and Condemnation of Nuisance Properties Act of 2000." Those overseeing the District's budget in the House object to the amendment, saying it is meddlesome.

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