- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

The House yesterday approved legislation, on a 392-0 vote, that will give lawmakers a 16-day extension into the new fiscal year to resolve remaining differences on the fiscal 2002 budget.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican, urged colleagues to support the measure "so we can get it behind us and we can move on to the regular, '02 bills."

The Senate is expected to pass the measure soon.

While Congress is not required to do so, lawmakers are likely to leave town for the year shortly after passing the last of 13 annual spending bills for fiscal 2002. The fiscal year begins Monday.

In the interim, lawmakers would still like to pass legislation reforming national energy and education policy. A campaign finance reform bill is also on a legislative wish list shortened by the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

Atop the list is legislation that might never get written: an economic stimulus bill.

While lawmakers were quick to call for such a bill and business leaders having been left behind by last spring's $1.35 trillion tax cut were not far behind, the leaders of Congress's tax-writing committees say they have not decided what, if anything, to do. Bolstering that wait-and-see attitude are economic scions such as Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Of the 13 spending bills for fiscal 2002, the House has passed 10 and the Senate has passed seven. Not one has been signed into law by President Bush.

Negotiations between the House, Senate and White House over a final budget framework remain bogged down.

Congressional negotiators last week made an offer to set spending at $686 billion in fiscal 2002. That amount includes the level of discretionary spending agreed to in the budget resolution, plus the $18.5 billion in supplemental defense spending sought by the White House, $4 billion extra for education, and $2.5 billion to help with cleanup from natural disasters.

The White House hasn't responded to the offer, and no further meetings have been planned.

Sen. Ted Stevens, the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the White House should pounce on the deal. The Alaska Republican said it would be "madness" to reject an offer that would resolve funding levels for all 13 spending bills.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, has held up consideration of the spending bills covering education and defense, pending completion of the education and defense authorization bills.

Consideration of the defense bill was slowed yesterday as a group of lawmakers tried to block another round of military base closings. The amendment to block those closings comes to a vote this morning. It is expected to fail.

In a letter to the chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld countered arguments that use the recent terrorist attacks as a reason to avoid the base closings.

"Indeed the imperative to convert excess capacity into war-fighting ability is enhanced, not diminished," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

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