- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Senate Democrats yesterday ignored President Bush's veto threat and approved a defense spending bill containing an extra $15 billion for homeland security and New York's recovery.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the extra spending on a party-line voice vote, going beyond the $40 billion that Congress already has approved in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"The need is there," said panel Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat. "It's mind-boggling to hear someone argue that that money isn't needed now."

Mr. Bush told Mr. Byrd and other congressional leaders last month in a White House meeting that he would veto any emergency spending above the $40 billion this year. But Democrats attached the money for bioterrorism vaccines, port security and other measures to the defense bill, hoping that Republicans will be loath to vote against the military.

"It's a slap in the face," said Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican. "This is thumbing your nose at the president. This is the ultimate one-upmanship. Republicans need to stand up to it."

Republicans said they have enough votes to block the bill on the Senate floor, where action is scheduled for tomorrow.

The $318 billion defense bill also includes a 4.9 percent pay raise for military personnel, as well as increased funding for missile defense and counter-intelligence operations.

Mr. Gramm said Republicans shouldn't be afraid of voting against a defense bill that they don't like and that Mr. Bush has promised to veto anyway.

"As Republicans, we've got plenty of credibility on national defense," Mr. Gramm said. "When we say 'No, it's too much defense spending, the president doesn't want it,' we've got tremendous credibility. I'm not the least bit shy about doing it. Senator McCain and I intend to be very active on this. Nobody can say we're not pro-defense. And yet I'm going to vote against this defense bill if it violates this budget."

The Republican-led House last week approved a defense-spending bill that held to the president's request not to go above the $40 billion in emergency spending.

Mr. Byrd said the $40 billion was only an estimate of needs in the aftermath of September 11 and does not take into account the anthrax attacks and the need for enhanced postal security.

He said the extra spending is not politically motivated.

"God may strike me dead right on this spot if I were offering this amendment for political purposes," Mr. Byrd said. "The president said we ought to change our tone in Washington. Now's the time to demonstrate a change in tone. We ought to quit looking at things politically, at least once on this matter.

"My intention is to help the president fulfill his promise to New York and to give the president everything he has requested for defense … and to provide a homeland defense, which is as much a part of this war as the war in Afghanistan. It'll be there if he elects to spend it."

The defense bill calls for the government to spend $20 billion to lease 100 Boeing 767 aircraft and convert them into military refueling tankers. The bill would also provide up to $8.3 billion for anti-missile defense.

Mr. Gramm said the Senate Republicans should stop the bill before Mr. Bush is forced to veto it.

"It would be nice if we would show some leadership and try to stop it," Mr. Gramm said. "I just think we stand with the president. In the end, the president will veto it and we'll sustain the veto, but why not do it now?"

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