- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

The House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill for homeland security in 2004 that is slightly more than this year’s allocation but, because of a strict spending caps, it is less than many members wanted.

Rep. C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican and chairman of the committee, warned that “not every member will get what he wants” as the 13 spending bills make their way to the House floor.

The challenge for the committee is to stay within the $784 billion in discretionary spending allowed in a federal budget resolution that Mr. Young has called too “austere.”

“We should all pray for creativity as we work through all these problems,” Mr. Young said.

Rep. Harold Rogers, Kentucky Republican and chairman of the homeland security subcommittee, crafted a bill that spends $29.4 billion for the new federal department, 1.8 percent above last year’s allocation and 3.7 percent more than what President Bush requested.

“Of course we can spend more, but we think this is adequate,” Mr. Rogers said. “This is the best we could do.”

The bill includes $4.4 billion for the “first-responders” to a terrorist attack — police, fire, rescue and emergency medical crews. Mr. Rogers said the bill’s spending number brings to $20.8 billion the amount of federal assistance sent to first-responders since September 11.

“Despite this significant investment, some of my colleagues will criticize the funding in this bill regardless of how much money we provide,” Mr. Rogers said.

The ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee obliged. Rep. David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat, called the budget resolution that guides the spending bills “a public lie” and a “monument of unreality.”

“The budget resolution under which we are operating is simply not real,” Mr. Obey said. “In my view, the budget resolution has become steadily more unreal since 1978, reaching a spectacular state of unreality in the last two years.”

The most glaring example, Mr. Obey said, was that the budget didn’t account for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq past the end of October.

“If anyone believes we won’t spend more money in Iraq, I’ve got a lot of things beyond bridges I’d like to sell,” Mr. Obey said.

Mr. Obey offered an amendment that would reduce the recently enacted 2004 tax cut by $1 billion and put the money into various homeland security measures, such as increased port, border, aviation and maritime security.

“I don’t want anyone in this room to believe we can have world-class security on the cheap,” said Rep. Chaka Fattah, Pennsylvania Democrat. “We are leaving ourselves open to future problems. We can’t be secure and not pay for it.”

Mr. Obey’s amendment was defeated 33-25 on a party-line vote.

The Appropriations Committee also approved a bill that would spend $9.2 billion on military construction, a cut of $1.5 billion from last year’s allocations.

Rep. Joe Knollenberg, Michigan Republican and chairman of the military construction subcommittee, said the bill fully funds housing improvements for military families and finds savings in other construction projects.

“We have left no stone unturned,” Mr. Knollenberg said. “I have no doubt that the pain we feel today will be shared by the other subcommittee chairmen.”

Mr. Young said he hopes to get all 13 spending bills on the floor of the House by the end of June.

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