- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2001

House Republican leaders overrode objections from conservatives in their party and brought to the House floor legislation that would exempt $1.3 billion in disaster aid from spending limits.
The money is part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) budget, itself contained within the $85 billion fiscal 2002 appropriations bill for the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and other independent agencies.
The White House and conservative Republicans have staunchly opposed the idea of allowing lawmakers to sidestep spending restrictions by designating spending as "emergency." Negotiations over the budget this spring were held up for days over the issue.
But yesterday, both the White House and GOP leaders endorsed the extra $1.3 billion appropriated for FEMA.
"The Administration appreciates Congress's attentiveness to the needs of FEMA, and the intent of the $1.3 billion contingent emergency appropriation added for FEMA's disaster relief program," the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a statement of administration policy.
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, said he shared the concern of conservatives that "designating emergency spending is at odds with our broader principles of fiscal discipline." But, Mr. DeLay said, it is important to assure that FEMA has the funds it needs.
The money added to the bill would go to replenish funds spent helping Mr. DeLay's home town of Houston, which was devastated this spring by Tropical Storm Allison. "The flooding from Tropical Storm Allison caused a real emergency in Houston," Mr. DeLay said.
Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, countered that Congress is "perilously close" to relying on the Social Security and Medicare trust funds to keep the fiscal 2002 budget in balance. "We must not do it," he said.
He and others said they fear this designation will open the gates to others.
Rep. Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, spearheaded the effort to remove the emergency designation from the $1.3 billion, a move that would have forced the supplemental amount to be matched by cuts to other programs covered by the bill.
At the very least, Mr. Toomey and other fiscal conservatives wanted a tighter definition of "emergency" added to the bill.
Instead, they were given the chance to offer a nonbinding amendment declaring that the administration should "report in a timely manner its determinations of the specific funding levels required to meet the emergency needs of the Federal Emergency Management Agency."
In the end, 26 Republicans voted against their leaders on a procedural vote that would have prevented the bill from coming to the House floor.
But 38 Democrats jumped party lines to vote to bring the appropriations bill to the floor, allowing the procedural motion to pass 228-195. Among the Democrats voting for the motion were Appropriations Committee members, conservatives and nine of 10 members of the Pennsylvania Democratic delegation.
"The only thing stronger than Democrats' disdain for Republicans is their love for their fellow appropriators," Mr. Flake said.

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