House and Senate negotiators completed work yesterday on a $9 billion supplemental spending bill for fiscal 2001.
“It’s extremely important,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young Jr., Florida Republican, adding that most of the bill is focused on the military. He said that if the Senate acts soon enough, the Pentagon could still reschedule military exercises canceled for lack of money.
Rep. David Obey, Wisconsin Democrat, called the supplemental bill “dry toast,” meaning it was relatively devoid of extraneous provisions.
Still, lawmakers found room to accommodate some pet projects.
For example, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, garnered $20 million for farmers in the Klamath River Basin. And the bill includes $5 million “to address the mold problem on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation,” a provision added for Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, according to a source familiar with the bill.
Another provision adds $1 million for security at the Capitol in anticipation of the International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington later this year, a House committee aide said.
The House is expected to pass the bill today and the Senate could soon follow suit, but debate there has not yet been scheduled.
Mr. Young said arrangements had already been made to fly the bill to Europe for the president’s immediate signature.
“We are pleased the bill funds the president’s priorities, is within the limits set by the president, and does not include emergency spending,” said Chris Ullman, spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget. The White House has strongly objected to designating spending as “emergency,” which would then make it exempt from federal spending limits.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, said he was proud of the bill and the speed at which it had been completed.
While the total cost of the bill hit $9 billion, $1 billion of that is for entitlement programs mostly for veterans and another $1.5 billion is offset by reductions to other programs. Those offsets bring the net discretionary spending increase to $6.5 billion.
“We did not spend one thin dime more than the president’s request,” Mr. Byrd said.
He noted, however, that Congress must now turn to the appropriations bills for the next fiscal year, which have been blocked in the Senate because of a disagreement over nominations made by the White House.
The supplemental spending bill provides an extra $2.9 billion for military readiness provisions such as pay, depot maintenance and real property maintenance. Another $1.6 billion would supplement the defense health program and $670,000 would help pay increased utility costs.
The measure includes nearly $1 billion for weapons procurement, including $153 million for airborne lasers as part of a proposed missile-defense system.
The bill, however, ratifies a Senate provision that blocks the White House from retiring B-1 bombers or reorganizing the B-1 bomber force.
The measure also ratifies a $107 million supplemental spending bill approved earlier this year by the D.C. Council and signed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams. The bill also adopted an amendment by Rep. Joe Knollenberg, Michigan Republican, that provides an extra $750,000 in federal funds for the Excel Institute, a program that provides automobile mechanic training for adults.
The appropriation brings to $2 million the amount appropriated by Congress for the program, according to an appropriations committee aide.