The House was expected last night to back a Bush administration plan to destroy records collected while doing background checks for gun purchases after 24 hours.
Gun rights advocates argue that keeping those records longer makes them subject to abuse. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced this month his intention to reverse a Clinton administration policy of keeping those records for up to 180 days.
Opponents of the change argue that the records can be used to assure that handgun purchasers and dealers are complying with the background check system.
“This is simply irresponsible and illogical,” Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat, said in a letter to fellow House members arguing against holding the records for just one day.
An amendment to be offered by Mr. Moran would prevent the Justice Department from pursuing any policy that would destroy those records within 90 days.
Mr. Moran said before the debate began that his chances were slim in the House. But he said he holds high hopes for the Democrat-controlled Senate, where “the National Rifle Association does not hold so much power.”
The bill also appears to continue an ongoing fight between the House Transportation Committee and the House Appropriations Committee.
Last month, the Appropriations Committee tried to use $56 million of gasoline tax revenues earmarked by law for highway projects to build and staff truck inspection stations on the border with Mexico.
The money had been included in the Fiscal 2002 Transportation Appropriations Bill, but House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young, Alaska Republican, successfully used budget rules to strike it from the bill.
The Appropriations Committee appears to have taken its revenge, though, cutting 14 different Alaskan programs in the Fiscal 2002 Commerce, Justice and State Departments Appropriations bill.
From data buoys for the National Weather Service to stellar sea lion and pollock research, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, cut $15 million in programs requested by President Bush for Alaska.
A House Appropriations Committee aide denied any ill intent. The aide said cuts to Alaskan programs will almost certainly be restored by former Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican.
Mr. Young took his case directly to Mr. Wolf.
“This is a long war and we are going to win it in the end,” said Mr. Young, who then borrowed a reporter’s copy of the bill and went to talk with Mr. Wolf on the House floor. Returning, Mr. Young said, “We’ll get it back.”
The White House continued to complain about the number of programs specifically set aside for members’ districts.
“The Justice portion of the bill contains at least $329 million in earmarks for 220 projects, approximately $141 million more and 131 projects over the fiscal 2001 House-passed version of the bill,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a letter to Congress.
In other appropriations news, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment by Rep. Nita M. Lowey, New York Democrat, to reinstate contraceptive coverage to the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) on a 40-21 vote. The committee rejected an amendment that would have required the FEHBP to also provide abortion services.