- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2001

Senate Republicans yesterday offered a compromise spending package for homeland security in a defense bill, seeking to head off a veto showdown between Democrats and President Bush.

The Republicans' proposal shifts money within a $40 billion emergency-spending package already approved by Congress to cover several items Democrats accused the White House of ignoring.

It includes $2.3 billion for bioterrorism defense, $7.05 billion for New York (about $3 billion less than Democrats seek) and $5.65 billion for homeland-defense items such as border security and food safety.

But Senate Democrats, who want another $15 billion, were cool to the proposal. Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, said it simply trims the funding for most of the Democrats' proposals.

Mr. Bush has asked lawmakers not to exceed the $40 billion in additional spending this year.

"The problem here is how much more of the money should be pushed into the system now," said Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican and sponsor of the compromise measure.

Republicans meanwhile blocked the Democrats' proposal, which would have added $7.5 billion for homeland security and $7.5 billion for New York's recovery to the $40 billion package. Republicans called the Democrats' proposal "war profiteering."

"This is about pure partisan positioning," Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said of the Democrats' proposal. "It's a clear political maneuver that undermines the ability to get a defense bill" approved.

The Democrats' $15 billion amendment to a $338 billion defense-appropriations bill contains money for everything from smallpox vaccine to $2.2 million for an "aquaculture" center in Mr. Byrd's home state.

"War profiteering is going on here," Mr. Lott said.

Citizens Against Government Waste said Mr. Byrd's package includes other pork for West Virginia, such as $750,000 for agriculture-waste utilization and $1.2 million for the Greenbrier River Basin.

Mr. Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it contains the extra $15 billion. The president said the $40 billion that Congress already approved in response to September 11 is enough for now, and that he will request more emergency spending for national security early next year.

Said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer: "The president thinks it is very important for the Senate not to take any action that would delay getting money to our troops who are fighting a war. Why would the Senate pass something they know is going to be vetoed?"

Republicans say they have the 41 votes necessary to block the Democrats' effort.

Democrats said the White House is winning a war against terrorism in Afghanistan at the expense of protecting Americans at home.

"I know more about how we can build a government in Afghanistan than I know how we can build a homeland defense here in the United States of America," said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat. "We're with our president. We want our president to continue in the great war as commander in chief over there, but come back home, Mr. President. We need your same vigorous action on homeland security."

"Defense is defense, whether our men and women fight on foreign shores or whether we fight here at home," Mr. Byrd said. "Is there any difference in the spilling of American blood whether it is spilling overseas or at home?"

Mr. Byrd said Congress must appropriate the money now, even if the White House doesn't spend it.

"I'm not trying to embarrass the president," Mr. Byrd said. "We are trying to help our president keep his promises."

The House last week approved a $338 billion defense bill that holds to Mr. Bush's desire not to exceed the $40 billion in emergency spending.

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