- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2001

The White House has backed off objections to spending $686 billion in regular appropriations in fiscal 2002, but haggling over how the president will request extra spending included in that figure means no deal will be signed this week, congressional aides said yesterday.
A bipartisan group of House and Senate negotiators agreed a week ago to the $686 billion figure, which included the discretionary spending level set in the budget this spring. It also included President Bush's $18.4 billion supplemental defense request, $4 billion in extra money for education and $2.2 billion in disaster relief, primarily for storm-torn Houston.
The number does not include $55 billion approved by Congress in response to the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center $15 billion for the airline industry and $40 billion in disaster relief and emergency assistance.
The deal would not settle specific differences in the 13 annual spending bills for the new fiscal year beginning Monday. It would, however, establish a framework within which those bills would be written.
While conservatives remain angry about the extra money, many Republicans say the offer is an unprecedented chance to reach a bipartisan, bicameral agreement early in the process.
"I think if we can strike a deal with the White House, we should do it," Senate Republican Conference Chairman Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican, said yesterday.
"The longer we delay, the higher the price tag will be," said Mr. Craig, echoing comments of Republicans throughout the week.
The White House initially rejected the $686 billion figure, saying it would require spending too much. Several counterproposals followed.
White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels suggested an-across-the-board spending cut of about 0.5 percent.
Congressional negotiators rejected the idea, noting that since half of the budget went to defense, it would cut spending the White House requested.
It also would cut funding for programs the White House wanted to beef up, such as embassy security, law enforcement and airline and airport security.
The White House then suggested a $1.5 billion spending cut, but as of Wednesday had agreed to a $686 billion spending level for the year.
However, Mr. Daniels and congressional negotiators are deadlocked over whether the White House will ask for the extra money formally with an amended budget or through an informal letter.
Negotiators fear that if the White House does not request the money formally, it will turn around later and blame Congress for the extra spending.
The difference seems minuscule, but Republican and Democratic staff familiar with the negotiations say Mr. Daniels is so irritated with lawmakers that it may hold up negotiations.
"There have been personality conflicts," said one Republican aide.

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