- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said last night that if the parties did not resolve a dispute over how to split committee funding by early today, he would attempt to appoint Republican committee chairmen and members without resolving the funding issue.
"If an agreement isn't reached shortly I will be moving forward with the committee resolution," said Mr. Frist, Tennessee Republican.
Until an organizing resolution is passed, the committee setup remains as it was in the 107th Congress with Democrats holding the committee gavels and new senators without committee assignments.
Mr. Frist said negotiations over funding would continue through last night and he would assess the situation this morning.
If there has not been "sufficient progress" by then, he said last night that he will bring to the floor today an organizing resolution that would set committee membership and Republican committee chairmen, giving the Republicans their one-vote majority on committees.
Democrats would likely object strongly to this, since they want a nearly equal split in committee funding and want this stipulated in any organizing resolution.
They say a nearly equal split is fair, since that was the setup when they controlled the Senate last session. That setup carried over from the beginning of last session, when the Senate was split 50-50, with Republicans in control.
"What we had agreed to with a 51-49 breakdown in the 107th Congress is what we ought to agree to with a 51-49 breakdown in the 108th Congress," said Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "Let's do in this Congress what we did in the last one."
Republicans say the last session was a unique situation because the Senate changed to Democratic control halfway through the year, and it was impractical to negotiate a new funding arrangement. They note that historically, majority party chairmen could take as much as two-thirds of the funding for committees, and the minority party got one-third.
Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, complained that Republicans control the Senate again, but Mr. Daschle is "once again finding some procedural way of blocking Senate action," adding that it is part of a "continuing pattern of behavior."
An early confirmation hearing for Tom Ridge as head of the new Homeland Security Department has fallen victim to the organizing fight.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman the Connecticut Democrat who was chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee in the 107th Congress called a hearing for this week and planned to preside over it.
But he said the White House balked at a hearing with a Democratic chairman. A Ridge hearing set for today was canceled and a new one has been set for Friday, though it is not clear who will be chairman.
Mr. Lieberman has offered to turn the gavel over to the panel's incoming Republican chairman, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, if the Senate organizing dispute is not resolved.
Democrats said committee hearings can proceed without an organizing resolution.
"We don't need a new organizing resolution to do the work of the Senate," Mr. Daschle said.


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