- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

The Senate agreed yesterday to another temporary funding bill that will keep the government operating through this month, but that sets the stage for a bigger fight over the overdue spending bills.
Republicans won't begin that fight until they have total control over the process something that has eluded them as the two parties argue over how committees should be organized.
In agreeing yesterday to the continuing resolution, as temporary spending measures are known, Democrats signaled they are ready to proceed with the large appropriations bill Republicans will soon introduce, which will include the provisions from the 11 spending bills Congress failed to pass last year.
But that doesn't mean Democrats are ready to accept the total $750.5 billion discretionary spending level the president has requested and House and Senate Republicans have promised to deliver.
"What this reflects is a dramatic cut a deep, deep cut in the funding for education, a deep, deep cut in the funding for homeland security, a deep cut in transportation and research, cuts virtually across the board," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
Sen. Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican who is in line to become the Appropriations Committee chairman, said Republicans will consider Democrats' amendments, but the overall number will have to remain at $385 billion. Congress already passed two military spending bills that account for the rest of the $750.5 billion total discretionary spending limit the president wants.
"I pledged to do it, so we will do it," Mr. Stevens said.
He has had to cut about $3 billion from the total Democrats had proposed last year for the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education spending bill, which takes the biggest hit of the 11 spending categories. Agriculture programs also took a hit.
Mr. Stevens said he will take care of priorities like funding last year's election-reform bill within the cap. But Republican appropriators in the House and Senate both said if President Bush sends up a request for more money to pay for fighting last summer's wildfires or for drought relief for farmers, it will be in addition to the current $750.5 billion target.
The holdup over committee organization continues to block progress, though. It appeared each side was dug in late yesterday and it was not clear whether an organizing resolution would move today.
Senate Democrats are insisting that committees divide their funding nearly equally between the two parties, as was the setup during the last Congress when the Senate was divided 50-50 and again later in the session when Democrats controlled the chamber.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat, said Democrats will not let Republicans move ahead with a resolution to appoint committee chairmen and members until the funding issue is resolved.
"We're not going to roll over on this," said Mr. Dodd.
Until the organizing resolution is passed, Democrats retain the chairmanships of the committees.
"They can't organize without us. We still chair," said Sen. John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat.
Republicans say that because they have a clear majority in the Senate now, Senate history establishes that incoming committee chairmen should be able to give two-thirds of funding to their party and one-third to Democrats. The funds are used for staff and other committee-related expenses.
Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said that standard was put into place years ago when Democrats in the majority were not giving enough resources to Republicans on committees.
"This idea that somehow we're being inequitable is laughable on its face," he said, adding that the "historical precedent is such that something around 50-50 would be completely unacceptable."
Mr. Santorum said he is "not wedded" to two-thirds of the funding for majority chairmen, but he said he is "wedded to the fact that when you're in the majority, you have the responsibility of moving legislation, and that takes a lot more work and a lot more time and a lot more energy from the staff."

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