- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2000

The Senate last night passed 57-37 legislation providing $23.1 billion for energy and water projects for 2001, some 10 votes shy of the support that will be needed to overturn a promised presidential veto.

President Clinton objects to a provision that would block the Fish and Wildlife Service from revising operation rules for the Missouri River to allow it to rise with the spring snow melt and during heavy rainfall.

But folks from Missouri, including the Democratic candidates for the Senate and governorship, say failure to block the rules will cause flooding in Missouri and all but kill barge traffic. The river begins near Great Falls, Mont., and flows through North and South Dakota. It ends in St. Louis, where it flows into the Mississippi River.

"I guarantee you this will have political ramifications and I am going to 'ramificate, '" said Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican.

Just four Democrats voted for the bill, while Sen. John McCain of Arizona was the sole Republican to vote against it.

"This year's energy and water … bill is very critical, particularly at a time when our nation is facing rising gas and energy prices," Mr. McCain said before the vote. "That is why I am utterly disappointed that the final agreement for this bill blatantly disregards these national priorities in favor of special interests giveaways."

In a written statement issued last night, Mr. Clinton called the measure "deeply flawed" and "anti-environmental."

"Accordingly, I will veto this bill when it reaches my desk," he said.

The bill appropriates $2.4 billion more for 2001 than was appropriated for 2000 and exceeds the House version of the bill by $1.9 billion.

"A grand total of $1.2 billion is added in pork-barrel spending," Mr. McCain said, holding up a 21-page list, including $25 million added for ground-water restoration in California's San Gabriel Basin, $400,000 for aquatic weed control in Lake Champlain, Vt., and language directing the Army to "extend the sheet pile wall on the west end of the entrance to Dillingham, Alaska, small boat harbor."

Mr. McCain says he will mount a similar attack against the final version of the Interior Department's fiscal 2001 budget, to be considered today by the House. The $18.8 billion bill includes $973 million in fire emergency appropriations, $686 million for land acquisition, and is 28 percent more than the prior year's appropriation.

Congress also will begin work on legislation to further extend the federal budget deadline from Oct. 6 until Oct. 14.

As for the Missouri River provision, Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said the provision ignores federal environmental laws and fails to take into consideration the needs of upstream states.

"It is unfortunate that it has to come to this," Mr. Daschle said of his efforts to muster the votes needed to sustain a Clinton veto.

Mr. Daschle said he tried repeatedly to compromise with the Missouri senators and revise the 40-year-old rules governing control of the river's waters but "we have been rebuffed."

Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, said the current rules often require drawing down water levels in Fort Peck Lake in Montana to support barge traffic in Missouri.

"In its current form, the [operations] manual simply does not provide an appropriate balance among the competing interests, both commercial and recreational, of the many people who seek to use it," White House Chief of Staff John Podesta said in a letter to lawmakers late last month.

But the message is the wrong one in Missouri, where Vice President Al Gore faces a tough fight with Texas Gov. George W. Bush in their bid for the presidency and local Democrats disagree with the White House.

"It is vitally important to the residents of the State of Missouri that [the administration] plan be re-evaluated," Missouri Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan in wrote a letter to the president provided by Mr. Bond.

"Any questions? Call my office. I love talking about this issue," Mr. Bond wrote in his letter.

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