- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2000

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday selected conferees for the District of Columbia's $4 billion-plus budget but rejected a motion to adopt the Senate version of the bill.

Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, made a motion that would prevent further negotiations and the threat of a presidential veto. The measure failed on a 219-190 vote, with 25 House members not voting.

Last month, the House approved a federal payment to the city of $414 million about $31 million less than the $445 million the White House proposed and the District requested. The Senate has recommended that the District get $448 million in federal funds for the 2001 fiscal year.

"The Senate bill is a reasonable bill. It funds the requests by the mayor; it funds the requests by the council," Mr. Moran said. "It's not a perfect bill … [but] give the District its money."

House Democrats objected to the budget's funding and urged substitution of a bill the Senate Appropriations Committee approved that would provide $441 million in federal money to the District.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat and the city's nonvoting member of Congress, pushed for acceptance of the Senate bill to prevent "an absurd, protracted fight over the smallest appropriation." She continued to criticize House Republicans for trying to interfere in local matters and "a $35 million dispute in a $2 trillion federal budget."

But Rep. Ernest Istook, Oklahoma Republican and chairman of the House subcommittee on D.C. appropriations, argued that accepting the Senate bill would create continuous problems for the District.

Mr. Istook said the Senate bill lacks millions in funding for drug-testing programs and would "perpetuate abuse and misuse" of money at the financially mismanaged Public Benefits Corp., which controls D.C. General Hospital.

Democrats also object to the riders or amendments to the budget that would ban tobacco possession by people younger than 18; needle-exchange programs within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, arcades and other places children frequent; and using city funds to sue Congress for voting rights.

"The bill could still be in serious trouble if controversial riders remain, language allowing the District to move money into D.C. General is altered or further manipulation of funding occurs," Mrs. Norton said.

The District's fiscal year began Oct. 1, but Congress has yet to authorize the budget spending for 2001. Mrs. Norton said the delay in approval puts a hold on the city hiring 175 police officers and initiating activities to keep young people off the streets during high-crime, after-school hours.

The House budget bill also reduced from $25 million to $7 million the federal outlay for a proposed Metro station on New York Avenue. City leaders had lobbied hard for the money for the $84 million project, which they said is crucial to reviving the District's main thoroughfares.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, the D.C. Council and the financial control board presented the consensus budget to Congress in the spring.

The House conferees are Mr. Istook, Mr. Moran and Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, California Republican; Todd Tiahrt, Kansas Republican; Robert B. Aderholt, Alabama Republican; Jo Ann Emerson, Missouri Republican; John E. Sununu, New Hampshire Republican; C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican; Julian C. Dixon, California Democrat; Alan B. Mollohan, West Virginia Democrat; and David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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