- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

A Senate panel yesterday approved a $7.8 billion supplemental-spending bill for fiscal 2001, dropping a House-passed proposal to cut disaster aid by $389 million.
The bill approved on a voice vote by the Senate Appropriations Committee largely follows President Bushs original request and a House version of that measure approved on a 341-87 vote Wednesday. The full Senate could take up the committee bill next week.
All three versions focus most of their attention on the military, including extra energy costs, new construction and weapons procurements.
But they also provide another $1 billion for other programs, such as money for the low-income home-energy assistance program and funds to the Treasury Department to mail out about 90 million tax-rebate checks and to the IRS to mail out the same number of letters to tell taxpayers they are about to receive that check.
The House and Senate bills would also ratify a $107 million supplemental-spending plan proposed by the District of Columbia. Most of that would fund increased expenses for labor and Medicaid, but would also include $12 million for the Districts summer-school program.
The Senate committees bill also provides $84 million to replenish the Radiation Exposure Compensation Trust Fund, a fund created to compensate uranium miners and federal workers who stood downwind from nuclear tests.
"This is shameful," Sen. Pete V. Domenici, New Mexico Republican, said of the fact that some who have qualified for compensation from the fund have instead been issued IOUs because the trust fund has run dry.
The Senate bill also provides $100 million to combat AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa. The Senate bill rejected, however, a proposal by the House to spend another $62 million on its own staff.
But some of the largest differences between the proposals are not on which programs to spend, but rather on what to cut to keep the plans total price tags at $6.5 billion.
The most controversial proposal to date is a House plan to cut $389 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agencys disaster-relief fund. Appropriators in the House used the money to offset the added cost of addressing other emergencies such as fire-control expenses for the Forest Service and the cost of repairing the terrorist-damaged USS Cole.
The White House objects to classifying the items as emergencies, but it also opposes the rescission. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the rescission will deplete FEMAs resources, leaving it unable to handle mop-up costs from Tropical Storm Allison and other unanticipated events.
During Wednesdays House debate, Democrats agreed, calling the proposal dangerously short-sighted. House Republicans, particularly from Texas, accused the Democrats of trying to exploit the rescission for political purposes.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, dodged the issue, dropping the proposed cut to FEMA. But to keep the bills net cost down, he also removed the emergency-spending increases proposed by the House.
Emergency spending can be considered exempt from budget restrictions and the White House has said it will do everything it can to avoid abusing the designation.
As a result, when asked whether Congress will complete work on the supplemental-spending bill before July 4 as requested by Mr. Bush, an Appropriations Committee aide responded, "The White House says there are no emergencies, so I dont see what the big rush is."

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