- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

Congress is expected to approve the District's $5.3 billion budget, which would allow local funds for domestic-partner programs and bar any funds for needle-exchange programs.
"We adhered to the [original] House legislation on the needle-exchange language, and while the negotiations took a little while, eventually we came together," Rep. Joseph Knollenberg said of the House-Senate compromise version of the D.C. budget.
Mr. Knollenberg, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District, said House leaders had indicated they did not want the needle-exchange provision dropped.
"It's the same old story, with some Republicans upset with the domestic-partner situation and the Democrats upset with the needle- exchange language," Mr. Knollenberg said.
The ban on the needle-exchange programs has been a staple of the D.C. budget process. It was included in the House version of the bill but was killed in the Senate version. Congress oversees the city's spending, and Democrats have been pushing for more home rule authority for city officials.
Democrats yesterday said they had hoped the needle-exchange ban would be dropped in the compromise bill.
"We are denying the right of the District to save lives of the people who live here … and it is quite unfortunate that [Republicans] are unyielding on that matter," said Rep. Chaka Fattah of Pennsylvania, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee.
In addition to the ban on needle exchanges, the bill would restrict the use of federal or local money for lobbying for D.C. statehood or voting rights.
Mr. Knollenberg defended the lobbying restriction. He said D.C. statehood and voting rights are important issues in the long run, but the short-term issues of the economy and education must be dealt with immediately.
"Where there is smoke, there is usually fire," Mr. Knollenberg said. "They have every right to clamor for statehood, but I don't think we should be paying for it now, when we have these other issues in the forefront."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, said Republicans are sending a mixed message.
"You hear Republicans talk all the time that we shouldn't have federal intervention in local government decision-making, and yet that's exactly what they are doing here," Mr. Daschle said. "We shouldn't be telling them what kind of lobbying they do in Congress, that should be up to them."
Like the Democrats, not all Republicans are pleased with the final bill. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, California Republican and subcommittee member, refused to sign off on the report and has promised to vote against it. Mr. Cunningham objects to the excising of a provision that would have capped lawyers' fees for children with special needs. He said the compromise was more the work of staff than members, adding that the money going to lawyers could have gone to children.
"I have pushed for five years to get that money, and now in one meeting that is gone," Mr. Cunningham said. "When my own chairman lets staff dictate what gets in, it galls me."
Knollenberg spokesman Christopher Close said the lawyer fee provision was dropped because of fear that children would not receive adequate representation.
"These children and their families aren't getting adequate coverage on cases moving through the system, that's why it was dropped," Mr. Close said.

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