- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2003

The governmentwide $397.4 billion spending bill that President Bush will sign in coming days marks the first time in a half-century that such legislation was written with Republicans controlling the White House and Congress.
So what kind of measure did the Republicans write? One that infuriated many conservatives, and won the votes of three of every four House Democrats and three of five Senate Democrats, including liberals such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Tom Harkin of Iowa.
The bill little resembles what Democrats would write if they held the majority. They said it shortchanged schools, conservation, border security, and aid to police and other emergency workers. And it authorizes logging in many national forests, while continuing Republican bans on federal aid for abortion and providing a generous increase for sexual-abstinence education.
Yet the measure is a far cry from the budgets Republicans wrote when they took undisputed control of Congress in 1995 for the first time in decades. Those Republicans proposed eliminating Cabinet agencies such as the Departments of Education, Commerce and Energy, only to be driven back by President Clinton.
This week's bill, covering the budget year that began Oct. 1, had its share of cuts. But it also gave the Education Department 6 percent more than what Mr. Bush proposed, for a total of $53.4 billion; had big increases for highways, farmers and medical research; carried billions of dollars worth of home-district projects for lawmakers; and gave modest boosts to a range of programs.
In some cases the measure provides more than what Mr. Bush has proposed for next year. For education, which Mr. Bush has long highlighted, his 2004 budget seeks $53.1 billion, $300 million less than the amount he is about to sign into law.
Indeed, this year's spending spree is only beginning.
Lawmakers expect the White House to soon seek billions more for a war with Iraq, plus anti-terrorism efforts and other programs. House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican, said he expects a $20 billion package. Rep. Jim Kolbe, Arizona Republican, said he expects a wartime request for aid to U.S. allies Turkey and Jordan to be "big, billions of dollars."
The surge comes with Republicans having control of the federal spending process for the first time since 1954, under President Dwight Eisenhower. The Republican Party held the White House and Congress in early 2001, but Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords left the party that spring to become an independent and gave Democrats Senate control before spending bills were written.
Analysts attribute the growing spending to the need to fight terrorism, the effort by Mr. Bush and some Republicans to cast themselves as compassionate conservatives and the lack of any sign the public cares much about federal deficits.
With such political dynamics in play, lawmakers crammed the bill with thousands of projects for their home districts and states.
Among them:
Nevada's senators, Democrat Harry Reid and Republican John Ensign, sharing credit for nearly $300 million in projects for their state. It includes $1 million for a hydrogen filling station at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and $600,000 for an oral history of the Nevada Test Site, a remote area where nuclear weapons have been tested for four decades.
Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, Minnesota Democrat, said he won $164 million for his home state, including $300,000 for research by the Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council.
Sen. Conrad Burns, Montana Republican, said his state would receive $560,000 for the Montana Sheep Institute.
Rep. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, the No. 3 House Republican leader, won $250,000 to restore the Gillioz Theater in Springfield, Mo.

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