- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

Conservatives in the House unsuccessfully attempted yesterday to cut all federal programs except Social Security, Medicare and defense by 1/3 of 1 percent across the board for the remainder of fiscal 2001.

"There has got to be a point at which we draw the line," said Rep. Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican.

The amendment lost a 362-65 vote after a day´s worth of debate over an $8 billion supplemental spending bill for fiscal 2001. The underlying bill later passed on another overwhelming vote 341-87.

Asked what the two votes might mean for conservative efforts to restrain spending in the fiscal 2002 budget, Mr. Toomey said he was "not enthusiastic."

The Senate Appropriations Committee will take up the measure today despite the impasse over reorganizing the Senate in light of the new Democratic majority there.

"I´m prepared to make an exception for the supplemental, because I do want to get it done," Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said yesterday morning.

The bulk of the supplemental bill, about $5.5 billion, would go to increase spending for the military during the last four months of the fiscal year. The remainder would increase spending on a variety of programs, including funds to respond to various disasters and emergencies and increase staff for Congress.

Mr. Toomey said spending already is slated to increase by 8 percent from fiscal 2000 to fiscal 2001. With the extra supplemental spending bill, that will grow to 9 percent, he said.

Mr. Toomey´s amendment would reduce spending on all non-defense discretionary programs by 0.33 percent, or about $1 billion.

"Frankly, that´s very manageable," Mr. Toomey said.

Without the Toomey amendment, the supplemental spending bill has a proposed $389 million cut to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It also would rescind $381,000 in federal funds intended for the District of Columbia.

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee argued that FEMA has $2 billion in its disaster-relief fund, and that the cut would leave plenty to respond to future emergencies.

Democrats and the White House sharply criticized the move.

"The Administration strongly opposes the proposed rescission," the Office of Management and Budget wrote in its statement of administration policy. OMB noted that FEMA is assessing the impact of Tropical Storm Allison on Texas, Louisiana and Florida, and likely will need to access additional funds to address current needs.

Democrats agreed and said the alternative proposed by Mr. Toomey forces a "bizarre" choice.

"The House is being offered the chance … to restore FEMA money only if we are willing to cut Head Start, funds for education, $70 million from the Veterans medical program, public safety officers for our schools, or neighborhood health centers. What have these people been smoking?" said Rep. Martin Frost, Texas Democrat and chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

The House also rebuffed a Democratic effort to increase by $600 million funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The underlying bill will increase funding for the heating subsidy by $300 million, but Democrats argued that 19 states and the District of Columbia have already or will soon run out of funding for the program.

The House did, however, vote to allow the District to spend an extra $12 million of its own surplus money on summer school expenses.

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