- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002


The Senate rejected a bipartisan effort to pump money for schools into its $31.4 billion anti-terrorism bill yesterday, bowing to a veto threat by White House officials who say the bill is already too costly.

The vote showed lawmakers' willingness to avoid loading the bill with additional items that have little to do with responding to the September 11 attacks. Bush administration officials say there are already too many such items in the measure.

"I do not believe we should add fuel to the fire by adding funding to this bill" that helps President Bush justify the veto threat, said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat and the legislation's chief author.

The rejected amendment by Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, would have provided $150 million to help communities operate summer schools. It failed 60-38.

The Senate also rejected an amendment by bipartisan fiscal conservatives that would have set spending limits for the next five years. The vote was 49-49, with sponsoring Sens. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, and Judd Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, falling 11 votes short of the 60 necessary to overcome a procedural hurdle.

The votes came after the Senate majority leader said the White House veto threat is inconsistent with recent Bush administration warnings of potential new attacks by the al Qaeda network.

"It's troubling that the administration would say that we're spending too much on homeland defense, that we're spending too much on the effort on the war on terror given the fears generated by the pronouncements" by the administration, Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, told reporters.

White House officials issued the veto threat Tuesday, complaining the measure exceeds the $27.1 billion request Mr. Bush sent Congress in March. The election-year squabble pits administration efforts to limit spending at a time when federal deficits are returning against Democratic attempts to beef up domestic counterterrorism initiatives.

In the only roll call Tuesday, the Senate voted 91-4 to drop a ban the bill had included on new emergency loans for airlines until Oct. 1. The loans are part of a bailout program for air carriers enacted just after the September 11 attacks.

The vote was a major boon to financially ailing US Airways, which says it needs a $1 billion emergency loan this summer. By erasing the $393 million the loan restrictions were supposed to save, the bill's cost grew to $31.4 billion.

The House anti-terror bill would block new loans until October, but aides predict the House-Senate compromise will omit the restrictions.

The counterterrorism legislation is dominated by funds for defense, intelligence, aviation safety, local law enforcement and aid to help New York rebuild from the attacks. Most Senate add-ons are for domestic security programs.

"The Senate bill includes scores of unneeded items that total billions of dollars all classified as an 'emergency,'" a White House statement on the bill said. "The bill adds unrequested funds for numerous programs and projects throughout nearly all of the federal agencies."

Projects the administration found objectionable include $100 million to secure Russian nuclear weapons and $315 million for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention construction, which the White House said could not be spent this year.

The spending is for the remaining months of the federal fiscal year that runs through Sept. 30.

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