- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 21, 2001

Congress gave lopsided approval yesterday to a compromise $6.5 billion measure for defense, battling AIDS in Africa and a host of other programs in a bill that tested President Bush's ability to hold down federal spending.
The House adopted the bill by 375-30, and the Senate used a voice vote to send it to Mr. Bush for his signature. The measure covers the rest of fiscal 2001, which runs through Sept. 30.
The biggest chunk of the bill, $5.6 billion, is for Pentagon fuel, health care, payroll and weapons costs and for Energy Department nuclear weapons activities.
Also included is $300 million to help poor families pay cooling and heating bills; $116 million to process and mail this summer's tax-rebate checks; $100 million to combat AIDS and other diseases in Africa and elsewhere overseas; an expected $84 million for people sickened by nuclear weapons testing; and $44 million for Congress' own expenses.
The White House boasted that it displayed fiscal tenacity by holding the measure's final price tag to $6.5 billion, the amount left under-budget caps Congress has imposed on itself. The administration also rebuffed efforts by the Republican-controlled House to declare spending emergencies, which allow extra spending that is paid for from the federal surplus and exempt from budget caps.
"This measure is a legislative hat trick," White House Budget Director Mitchell Daniels said in a statement. "It funds the president's priorities, stays within the spending caps and resists unnecessary spending."
Even so, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, cooperated in limiting the price tag to $6.5 billion after Democrats decided to deny Mr. Bush the political target they may have given him by insisting on extra spending.
The bill "is not one Indian-head copper penny above the president's request. Do you hear me down there at the other end of the avenue?" Mr. Byrd said, referring to the White House.
And lawmakers of both parties said the price tag was contained by providing insufficient money for defense and natural disasters money Mr. Bush and Congress may have to supply later.
"This is more or less a Band-Aid on what our real needs are" for defense, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican.
"If we have one more storm, this bill will clearly be inadequate, and I think the administration knows it," said Wisconsin Rep. David R. Obey, top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.
To rein in spending, the White House even thwarted Rep. Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, the No. 3 House leader, from adding $1.3 billion for the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison and other natural disasters. Allison flooded much of Mr. DeLay's Houston district.
Eliminated from the final bill was a $389 million cut in disaster aid the House put in its initial version of the legislation. Mr. DeLay, meanwhile, has put the $1.3 billion in disaster funds into a separate measure for next year.
The bill includes several projects for lawmakers' home districts, such as $60 million for security in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympics; $20 million to help farmers in the Northwest's Klamath Basin who are fighting the government for water; and $24.5 million to help Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas recover from ice storms.
Expenditures also include $2.5 million to fight forest fires and beetle infestations in Alaska; $1.4 million to counter a disease killing oak trees in California; and $2 million to combat marijuana growers in California and Kentucky.

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