- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2001

Senate leaders agreed yesterday to postpone consideration of a supplemental spending bill for fiscal 2001 until July 9, the day Congress returns from a weeklong recess for Independence Day.

The agreement reached late Thursday between Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, ended four days of increasingly barbed debate over the measure, which would provide an extra $5.5 billion for the Department of Defense.

A similar measure passed the House on June 20 and President Bush had wanted a completed version of the bill on his desk by tomorrow.

Some Republicans claimed victory, saying they had managed to paint Mr. Daschle into a corner while portraying him as a politician unconcerned about national security.

"He certainly flinched," Mr. Lott said of Mr. Daschle's willingness to set a time for the debate and to limit the number of amendments that could be offered.

Democrats, and some Republicans, said it was a fight noticed by few outside the Senate.

"Taking criticism is part of the job," Mr. Daschle said nonchalantly, when asked about some of the more incendiary remarks made about him during the week.

"I didn't even notice it," said Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat.

Throughout the week Republicans tried to force Mr. Daschle to set aside "patients' bill of rights" legislation to consider the supplemental appropriations bill.

Pointing to Pentagon memorandums, they argued that all branches of the armed services would face cutbacks if the supplemental bill were not passed soon. As the week progressed, Republicans moved the deadline up from "late July" on Monday to July 1 tomorrow.

"Tom Daschle is going to let the Pentagon run out of money this Sunday," Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican, said in a statement released yesterday. "It's one thing to try to strongarm the minority, but it is quite another to do it by tightening a financial noose around the necks of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines."

The Pentagon has said that it will begin to curtail activities July 16 if a supplemental spending bill has not been passed.

"We definitely got traction," a Republican leadership aide said. The aide called the week a victory in that "we took attention away from health care and diverted it to defense, where it was needed."

Anita Dunn, spokeswoman for Mr. Daschle, said media coverage of the supplemental fight had been sparse and that Republicans were simply trying unsuccessfully to divert attention away from the patients' rights bills.

Under the agreement, debate on the bill begins July 9 with only 40 amendments allowed. Many of those amendments will never be offered, with senators saying yesterday they had reserved a spot on the list just in case.

Other amendments to be offered had already been agreed to by yesterday afternoon.

For example, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, had secured $20 million, as requested by President Bush, for farmers along the Klamath River Basin suffering from a drought. Similarly, Senate Minority Whip Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican, said those writing the bill had agreed to provide money for storm damage to Fort Sill.

Other amendments to be debated will be one blocking funding for a Pentagon plan to cut the number of B-1 bombers in operation.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, would block funding for a letter from the IRS to taxpayers telling them about a pending tax rebate. Mr. Schumer and other Democrats argue that the letter is politically worded.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, will seek additional funding for the Department of Defense.

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