- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Congress adjourned for the year yesterday without passing the final seven spending bills for fiscal 2004, and Senate Democrats are planning to filibuster the bill when legislators return in January.

A day after the House passed the omnibus bill encompassing the seven spending bills — which include $328 billion in discretionary spending and nearly $500 billion more in mandatory spending — the Senate failed to take action.

Senate Republicans tried to pass the bill by voice vote yesterday, but were blocked by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.

“We will not allow this bill to be sneaked through,” Mr. Daschle said.

Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, announced earlier that no more roll-call votes would be held this year. That means final action will have to wait until Jan. 20, when the Senate returns.

Fiscal 2004 began Oct. 1, and most government agencies have been funded under a continuing resolution, which extends 2003 funding levels. The current extension lasts through January, giving Congress time to act when it reconvenes.

Congress has passed six of the 13 annual appropriations bills, including those for the Defense and Homeland Security departments. But Republicans said failure to pass the omnibus bill will leave global HIV/AIDS funding, increases in veterans’ care funding and other priorities languishing.

“The consequences of delay on this bill are real,” said Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican and chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Mr. Daschle tried to amend the bill on the Senate floor yesterday to undo provisions on media-ownership rules, a voucher program for District of Columbia public schools and new Labor Department rules reclassifying employees for purposes of overtime pay.

But Mr. Frist objected to that, and the two sides ended in a stalemate.

Mr. Daschle said he intends to vote against ending debate on the bill and wants fellow Democrats to do the same, but he said he did not know how many would join him in the effort.

Republicans attempted to end filibusters 23 times this year, including multiple votes on a series of judicial nominees, but were successful only once, on the Medicare prescription-drug bill.

The House ended its year with the vote Monday to approve the spending bill.

Congress failed last year to finish its appropriations work, with 11 of the 13 bills stalling. When lawmakers returned this year, after the 2002 elections, they quickly approved an omnibus measure that funded those agencies.


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