- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 16, 2002

The House Appropriations Committee passed a $30 billion emergency spending bill yesterday after sidestepping a dispute over the Crusader weapons system and restoring President Bush's discretion in administering international family planning funds.
Both issues had threatened the fate of the bill, according to Republicans on the committee. But with them out of the way, the bill passed by voice vote and proceeds to the House floor next week.
About half of the $30 billion would go to defense needs in the war on terrorism, and another quarter would go to domestic security, such as $3.85 billion for the Transportation Security Agency.
The bill makes good on Mr. Bush's commitment of $20 billion in post-September 11 assistance to New York City by allocating almost $5.5 billion and provides $450 million for the first installment of election reform's punchcard voting machine buyback program.
It also provides $4.3 billion in state highway funding that would have been lost because gas tax revenue fell.
On the population debate, the committee in essence erased language it had inserted last week directing that the president disburse $34 million to the U.N. Population Fund.
Current law gives the president authority to spend up to $34 million with the fund, but Mr. Bush delayed that decision. He has sent a fact-finding mission to China to determine if the U.N. money is used to promote forced abortions or sterilization as part of that country's population program.
Most committee Democrats, joined by a handful of Republicans, said if that mission, due back in June, finds no coercive practices, the full $34 million should be spent. Last week they attached that mandate in an amendment to the bill, which passed 32-31.
But a majority of Republicans, joined by some Democrats, said the president's flexibility to spend anywhere up to $34 million should be maintained, and their amendment passed 32-30.
The Crusader issue has been brewing at the Capitol for several weeks. The Defense Department seems to be moving to cancel the artillery system, due for deployment in 2008. But many lawmakers want to go ahead with building Crusader and, in lieu of that, want to know exactly what the administration proposes to replace the current Palladin artillery system, which is four decades old.
Worried about a May 13 administration memo directing the Army to stop spending money on the program, Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, Minnesota Democrat, offered an amendment to force the department to continue progress on the system and issue a report to the committee on plans for a replacement.
"If this is not a stop-work order, it is very close," he said of the memo.
But Republican leaders on the committee said the correct process for reviewing the system is the 2003 defense appropriations legislation.
In the end, Mr. Sabo agreed to drop his amendment, and Republican leaders accepted language in the report accompanying the bill that tells the administration not to do anything that would imperil the program and to deliver a report to Congress on its plans.
The committee did attach several hotly disputed amendments, including one to enshrine in law Mr. Bush's recent decision to withdraw from the treaty creating the International Criminal Court and another that heads off an attempt to add another $5 to the airline passenger security user fee.
The committee also approved an amendment to give $200 million to Israel to combat terrorism, and $50 million for humanitarian needs in Palestine, with the provision that the money not go to the Palestinian Authority.


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