- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

The House Appropriations Committee yesterday approved $200 million in new assistance to Israel and $50 million for Palestinians as part of a $30 billion supplemental appropriation bill to address defense and domestic security needs following September 11.

The initial proposal just had the money to Israel, but committee members said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the Bush administration requested the extra $50 million, which will go for humanitarian needs and cannot go to the Palestinian Authority, as a boost to ongoing Middle East peace efforts.

"The secretary believes that he has no problem with the amendment, but it would be much more useful to the diplomatic efforts of the administration if it was balanced to include [the] $50 million," said Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican, who offered the Palestinian money amendment.

The full bill was expected to pass easily late last night.

Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican, called the measure "a good, clean, responsible bill that will enjoy broad bipartisan support" and Rep. David R. Obey from Wisconsin, the panel's top Democrat, called it a "responsible and bipartisan approach."

About half the underlying appropriations bill funded Defense Department needs in the war on terrorism, and another quarter went to fund domestic security needs. The bill also included $5.5 billion for New York city and state, which would bring the total federal assistance to the $20 billion mark President Bush promised to rebuild the city after the attacks.

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic leaders are considering combined action on the emergency spending bill and the fiscal 2003 budget, which has been delayed for weeks in the Senate because of a lack of Democratic support.

"I'm open to it," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat. "The workload keeps getting added to. It's very hard to see how all these things get done [before Memorial Day]. And they need to get done soon."

The Republican-led House approved a $2.1 trillion budget March 20. The Senate is supposed to pass a budget by April 15, although that deadline is often ignored. House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican, reminded Senate Democrats yesterday that it was "Day 50" without Senate action on the budget.

Mr. Conrad said the Senate must complete work on the budget before adjourning for the Memorial Day recess, as well as finishing legislation on trade, cloning and extending the federal debt limit.

"How do you possibly get all that done?" Mr. Conrad said. "That is a heavy lift. We need to have a budget framework in place before this break."

The House committee approved the amendment with aid to Israel and Palestine by voice vote.

Democrats failed on a party-line vote to pass an amendment sponsored by Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, that would have expressed the sense of the House that Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge should testify before the committee.

The administration has refused to let Mr. Ridge testify, arguing he is a presidential adviser immune from such requests, though they have allowed him to give informal briefings.

That isn't enough for Democrats.

"I think what's at stake here is a question of whether or not we want to deal in the appropriations committee with administration salesmen or administration policy-makers. Right now we're being told we can't get at administration policy-makers," said Rep. David R. Obey, Wisconsin Democrat.

But Rep. Ernest Istook, Oklahoma Republican, said the amendment would just be picking a fight with the administration when the focus should be on the appropriations in the bill.

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