- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2001

The House approved the $5.3 billion D.C. appropriations bill yesterday for fiscal 2002, adding $398 million in federal funds and lifting a ban on a city law that allows domestic partners of D.C. employees to purchase health benefits.
The unexpected bipartisan support for a provision approved by the District, but barred by Congress since 1992, allows partners including homosexual ones of D.C. employees to purchase health insurance under the employees' health plan.
In an unusual move, a number of House Republicans broke ranks to vote to delete the ban from the bill. The final vote was 226 to 194.
"The House has just performed a historic act," said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat. "[The House] has broken through prejudice."
At the same time, the House overwhelmingly approved another rider forbidding the District from spending any money enforcing a D.C. Commission on Human Rights ruling that forces the Boy Scouts of America to pay two homosexual scout leaders $50,000 each because of discrimination.
"This is an arrogant, intrusive ruling," Rep. John Hostettler, Indiana Republican, said about the D.C. ruling.
Opponents of the amendment called it "unnecessary" and pushed for Congress to allow the courts to do their job.
The ruling could mean the District may not be able to fight an appeal filed by the Boy Scouts in July.
Some controversial social riders remain in the bill, including a ban on funding abortion services, D.C. voting rights in Congress and needle-exchange programs.
The bill also was notable for the absence of any provision to retain the D.C. financial control board. The control board ends at midnight Sunday after being established in 1995 by Congress to restore fiscal health to the financially ailing city.
This year's appropriation process has been smoother than in previous years so far, lacking the civil disobedience, numerous riders and vitriolic partisan fighting that previously marked the process.
This time, the House Appropriations subcommittee on the District slashed almost half the 67 riders, pleasing local leaders who long have maintained those provisions chip further at home rule. City leaders also said yesterday they were pleased that Rep. Joe Knollenberg, Michigan Republican and chairman of the subcommittee, approved the city's budget and restored about half the provisions approved by Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the D.C. Council this spring. They hope to have the rest restored by the Senate.
Among those restored were: $173 million in police salaries to increase the force to 3,800 sworn police officers and $7.5 million for anti-drug-abuse programs for juveniles and adults.
"This is the smoothest D.C. appropriations in years," said Mrs. Norton. "Still, some provisions from the D.C. budget remain deleted. But I could not have supported the bill had it not made progress."
The house added $398 million in federal funds, which includes: $23 million to expand and reform the District's family courts, and $21 million to upgrade security, emergency plans and fire boats. The latter appropriation includes $16 million, which already was delegated to be spent on security for the postponed World Bank/International Monetary Fund meetings.
"The bill made progress in the right direction," said shadow Sen. Paul Strauss, D.C. Democrat. Mr. Strauss said there was more sense of "unity" in Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks .
City leaders said they were pleased and are now waiting to see what will happen in the Senate.
"The bill is the best of its kind that we have seen in a long time," Mr. Williams said through a spokesman. "But we are a little worried about what the Senate does in adding provisions. Hopefully, it will be the same outcome [as in the House]."
The Senate Appropriations Committee postponed its markup of the bill yesterday. It is expected to review the bill within next two weeks.

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