- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 8, 2001

Senate Democrats buckled to President Bush's veto threat yesterday and dropped their demands to add $15 billion for homeland security and New York to a defense bill.
After losing three votes on their extra spending, Democrats were forced instead to craft an amendment that stays within the emergency spending cap set by Mr. Bush but redirects more money for bioterrorism and New York.
"It's a win for the president" said Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican. "We showed that a bill with the $15 billion in it is not going to pass."
Meanwhile, talks on a bill to stimulate the economy hit a snag yesterday over Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's insistence that any deal be approved by two-thirds of Senate Democrats instead of a simple majority of the Senate.
"This 'my-way-or-the-highway' approach is completely unacceptable to Republicans," said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican. "The Senate majority leader is trying to kill this negotiation before it even starts."
The defeat of the Democrats' proposal for the additional $15 billion in homeland security spending cleared the way for a compromise on the $318 billion defense bill. That measure includes a 4.9 percent pay raise for military personnel and Mr. Bush's request for $8.3 billion for missile defense.
The new Democratic plan, approved on a voice vote last night, shifted about $7 billion that Mr. Bush wanted for defense to programs tightening domestic security and helping New York and the Washington area recover from the September 11 destruction of the World Trade Center and damage at the Pentagon.
The Senate approved an amendment to the defense bill that seeks to prevent American military personnel from being tried for war crimes in the proposed International Criminal Court (ICC).
The American Service Members Protection Act, proposed by Sens. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, and Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, would prohibit U.S. aid to any nation that participates in an ICC war crimes trial of U.S. military personnel. It would also authorize the president to order the rescue of any American improperly held by the ICC, which has been ratified by 47 of the required 60 nations to date.
Mr. Helms said his proposal would protect American military personnel "from a permanent kangaroo court where the United States will have no veto."
Democratic Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut argued that the proposal needed study.
The House in May approved a similar measure sponsored by Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican.
Also late last night, the Senate voted to give members of Congress a $4,900 pay raise in January as members of both parties banded together to thwart an attempt to block it. The pay raise, usually discussed in the Treasury Department spending bill, came as the Senate debated the defense spending bill.
With a 65-33 roll call, senators used a procedural vote to block an effort by Sens. Russell Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado Republican, to keep the pay raise from taking place.
The House has already passed legislation opening the door for the 3.4 percent pay raise that increases annual salaries to $150,000. Under a 1989 law, lawmakers get automatic salary increases every January unless Congress votes to block it.
The votes against the Democrats' homeland security proposals averted a veto showdown that had been brewing for weeks.
Shortly after September 11, Congress approved $40 billion in emergency spending, most of it for the Pentagon and New York City. But Democrats said after the anthrax attacks in October that another $15 billion was needed for postal security, border patrols, smallpox vaccines and other items.
Mr. Bush told lawmakers repeatedly that he would veto any more emergency spending this year. The White House said Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge would present Congress with a request for more money in February after the administration assesses the nation's most urgent needs.
The House last week approved a defense bill that stayed within the president's spending limits.
The setback was a high-profile defeat for Mr. Daschle, who failed in several attempts to force the extra spending on the administration. Last week Mr. Daschle abandoned his insistence that the homeland security money be linked to a stimulus bill. Then he pared back the Democrats' request from $20 billion to $15 billion.
When it became clear that Democrats lacked the votes, Mr. Daschle failed to follow through on his vow to force Republicans to vote against each element of the homeland security package individually.
"It's very disappointing," Mr. Daschle told reporters. "We have to face reality here that it's not likely we're going to persuade our colleagues that it's an investment that we ought to be making."
"The strategy backfired on the Democrats," said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican. "The American people saw through it."
On the bill to stimulate the economy, Republicans roundly criticized Mr. Daschle's suggestion that two-thirds of Senate Democrats should approve any deal. House-Senate negotiators had just begun substantive talks this week after the Senate failed to approve a bill.
Democrats yesterday said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, California Republican, had "walked away" from the discussions and returned to his home state. His spokesman, Jason Poplete, said he had accepted an invitation to speak at the memorial service for Brian Prosser, an Army Green Beret killed in Afghanistan.
But Republicans said Mr. Thomas was not willing to go along with Mr. Daschle's two-thirds requirement.
Mr. Lott said Mr. Daschle told him privately yesterday that he did not mean two-thirds of Democrats "literally" but was using it as a rough guideline.
"He's going to have to say that publicly," Mr. Lott said.

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