- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2001

The cost of the government's response to the terrorist attacks is mounting and will near $200 billion by the time Congress finishes work on an economic-stimulus package and other bills.
The new spending threatens to wipe out the estimated $52 billion surplus that House and Senate Budget Committee officials said would be left at the end of the 2002 fiscal year and barring a rapid economic recovery would push the budget temporarily into a deficit.
Other spending bills not directly related to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are sprouting all over Capitol Hill for everything from $37 billion for Amtrak to $70 billion in grants and loans for rail improvement to $16 billion for health care benefits for displaced workers.
"For all too many in the nation's capital, the country's renewed patriotism has encouraged a parade of special interests to wrap themselves in the flag and use the tragic events to link their causes to the U.S. Treasury," said Ronald Utt, senior government analyst at the Heritage Foundation.
"In contrast to the rest of the country, what passes for sacrifice among some in Washington is how much of somebody else's money i.e., the taxpayers' you are prepared to spend," he said.
Congress has approved $40 billion to deal with recovery, rebuilding and defense needs, along with $15 billion for the airline bailout $10 billion of which is in federal loan guarantees and $5 billion in direct assistance. Legislation still to come includes the airline-safety bill that could cost an estimated $40 billion, the economic-stimulus package that President Bush says could run between $60 billion and $75 billion and an anti-terrorism plan whose costs are unknown at this point.
"The costs are adding up," a House Budget Committee official said. "This could approach $200 billion over time."
Meanwhile, a widening array of special interests are lining up to either get a piece of the $40 billion disaster aid money or to lobby for a broad range of additional spending.
The American Society of Travel Agents is calling for $4 billion in grants and no-interest loans, saying, "without travel agencies, the nation's travel industry cannot function."
Supporters of the House-passed $170 billion agriculture-subsidy bill say that "terrorist attacks have bolstered the argument that food production is a vital national interest." The president has threatened to veto the bill if the Senate does not pare it back.
Democrats in both houses are also pushing new social-welfare legislation. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, wants $16 billion for a one-year premium subsidy for jobless workers. Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, wants $15 billion for highways, railroads, bridges and rapid-transit systems, a bill that is being promoted by a phalanx of lobbyists representing organized labor and the road-building and transportation industries.
The costs of other benefit programs, such as unemployment compensation and food stamps, will likely increase as well in an environment of mounting layoffs that will cost the government billions in extra spending.
Mr. Bush has proposed spending $3 billion to extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks for those workers in the hardest-hit states. But House Ways and Means Committee members want that extended to all workers and increased by 15 percent, costing about $15 billion.
In the meantime, the president is struggling to get a bipartisan agreement for a $60 billion to $75 billion economic-recovery package made up mostly of tax cuts to encourage consumer spending and spur new business investment.
On Friday, Mr. Bush seemed to agree with critics that Congress had gone far enough in its spending. "In order to stimulate the economy, Congress doesn't need to spend any more money. What they need to do is cut taxes," he said.
But Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, wants the stimulus package evenly divided between tax cuts and new spending, including relief for workers who did not receive a rebate check this fall from the Bush tax plan.

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