- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 26, 2001

The U.S. military would be forced to curtail or cancel training exercises, facility repairs and equipment maintenance if Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle holds up a pending emergency budget until late July, according to Pentagon projections.
The Pentagon provided a list of hardships at the request of Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott. He used the list yesterday to criticize Mr. Daschle for threatening to delay action on a $6.5 billion supplemental budget bill until the Senate completes work on a contentious patients' bill of rights. That delay would push approval of the fiscal 2001 defense legislation until late July or beyond.
"If we don't get this bill completed by … mid-July, we're going to have canceling of base-property maintenance, holding some of our deployed units where they are overseas until the end of the fiscal year [Sept. 30]," said Mr. Lott. "So we're really pushing the envelope when it comes to the needs of our military personnel in health as well as in steaming hours."
Picking his first confrontation with Democrats since they took control of the Senate, Mr. Lott also accused Mr. Daschle of sacrificing the nation's urgent energy needs in order to push through the health care bill.
Neglecting energy and defense has "very dangerous implications for the security and prosperity of the American people," the Mississippi Republican said.
Nearly all the budget bill's funding goes for replenishing military training accounts depleted by peacekeeping missions in the Balkans and elsewhere. Without emergency funding soon, the military would be forced to:
* Curtail all nonessential operations such as pilot training, steaming hours, fleet exercises and air combat training maneuvers. The Air Force and Navy would ground some pilots and aircraft.
* Perhaps hold deployed units overseas until the new fiscal years begins Oct. 1.
* Cancel training for units getting ready to deploy for peacekeeping duties.
* Stop or slow down maintenance of equipment at large regional depots.
"This will lead to the loss of jobs for many Americans," Mr. Lott's office said.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff originally wanted about $9 billion in emergency funding in January. But incoming Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld nixed the request. The White House scrubbed the numbers and presented the $6.5 billion proposal. The House already has approved that number, as did the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Mr. Lott said he suggested the Senate OK the emergency defense bill by unanimous consent, since both chambers approved Mr. Bush's list of spending requests without adding home-state projects, as was the practice with supplemental bills the past few years. But Mr. Lott said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, rejected that idea.
Mr. Daschle, despite earlier indications that he would allow a speedy vote on the spending bill, told colleagues Friday that he would not bring it to the floor until the Senate completes work on a patients' bill of rights.
Republicans have been slowing down final passage of that legislation, raising concerns about employer liability and increasing premiums. Their tactics could derail Mr. Daschle's stated goal of finishing the bill by Friday.
The fate of the health care bill is particularly sensitive for Mr. Daschle because it is his first test of his ability to move legislation since becoming majority leader. Senate committees remain unable to take up new legislation due to prolonged negotiations between the parties on how to reorganize and whether to guarantee votes on Supreme Court nominees.
Daschle spokeswoman Molly Rowley said Mr. Daschle wants to complete the patients' bill of rights, the spending bill and the reorganization before the Senate adjourns for the Fourth of July recess.
"We think all three of these things can be done this week before we leave," she said.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Appropriations Committee that approved the spending bill last week, said yesterday he was "not in a position to comment" on Mr. Daschle's intentions.
"The leader has to balance a lot of things," Mr. Byrd said. "I'm sure he'll get to the [spending bill] when he thinks he can."
Mr. Lott said Mr. Daschle rejected his suggestion to approve the spending bill by today, making it unlikely that a conference bill could be worked out before the House adjourns Friday for a weeklong Independence Day vacation.
"We need to get this defense and other issues supplemental done before we leave, because it is critical for nonessential operations like pilot training, steaming hours, fleet exercises," Mr. Lott said. "I'm very worried that by not acting this week on the defense supplemental appropriations bill we're asking for more delay and even more problems with our defense needs."
Mr. Daschle has been threatening to cancel the Senate's vacation to compel Republicans to finish work on the health care bill.
Republicans and Democrats have been sniping politely about legislative priorities ever since the power shift in the Senate. Republican lawmakers have been pressing for passage of President Bush's energy plan, but Mr. Daschle has expressed more interest in the health-care legislation, as well as increasing the minimum wage and passing a hate-crimes bill.
Mr. Lott said yesterday that Democratic leaders do not intend to address the energy issue by the end of July.
Congress is in recess for the entire month of August, meaning the Senate would not take up the administration's energy plan until September at the earliest.
House and Senate Republicans met with White House representatives late yesterday and agreed to call attention to Democrats' inaction on an energy plan over the recess next week. The meeting took place in the office of House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.

John Godfrey contributed to this report.

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