- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

Senate Republicans fought yesterday to stick to President Bush's spending limits and complete leftover spending bills from last year, turning back Democratic attempts to add money for homeland security.
Shepherding the $389 billion omnibus spending package which wraps together 11 unfinished fiscal 2003 spending bills is the first major challenge of the year for Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican.
Republican leaders pledged to keep their ranks together and defeat attempts to go beyond the measure's $389 billion.
"I think we will be able to," said Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican.
They managed to defeat two amendments by top Democratic appropriator Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, that would have added money for homeland security initiatives one to add $3 billion and one to add $5 billion to the bill. Both amendments were defeated 51-45, with Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia joining Republicans in opposing them.
"Republicans have their marching orders from the White House," complained Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat.
Congress adjourned last year without completing 11 of the 13 fiscal 2003 spending bills. Since then, government agencies have been funded on extensions of 2002 spending levels.
The omnibus fiscal 2003 spending package before the Senate funds the remaining 11 bills everything from the Forest Service to the FBI. To meet the president's fiscal 2003 spending limits, Republican appropriators cut about $9.8 billion from the 11 bills as they were approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last year.
Senate Republicans are also instituting an additional 1.6 percent across-the-board reduction in spending levels in order to offset some additions in the omnibus package that were not in last year's bills, including $3.1 billion in drought assistance for Western farmers, $1.5 billion to help implement the new election-reform law and $1.6 billion in Medicare-related adjustments. The measure includes a few additions that are not offset, including an extra $3.9 billion for defense and intelligence and $825 million for fighting forest fires.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, complained that the 1.6 percent across-the-board reduction means a $63 million cut in the FBI, requiring the elimination of 822 FBI agents; a $12 million cut in the Food Safety Inspection Service; a $432 million cut to the National Institutes of Health; and a $107 million cut in funding for Head Start.
Republicans blamed last year's Democratic-led Senate for failing to complete the spending bills and stressed the importance of completing the omnibus bill soon, since the fiscal 2004 funding process is right around the corner.
"They wouldn't be squalling now if they had done their job," Mr. Craig said. "Now we've got a few days to clean up this mess and move on to '04."
The omnibus measure would also increase education funding by $1.7 billion over fiscal 2002 levels.
Republicans yesterday passed an amendment to the bill by a margin of 52-45 that would increase education funding by another $5 billion. They said the amendment would stay within the president's overall spending limits by across-the-board cuts in other agencies. Democrats favored an amendment sponsored by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts that would add $6 billion to education funding.


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