- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2003

Senate Republicans yesterday pushed on toward completing last year's leftover spending bills within President Bush's spending limits, despite heated complaints from Democrats.
Democrats accused Republicans of shortchanging everything from education to the FBI. But Republicans dismissed the complaints and stressed the need to stick to the limits and quickly deal with last year's unfinished business, which some blamed on Democrats.
"We have to clean up a problem that was not of our making," said Sen. Larry E. Craig, Idaho Republican.
The Senate is expected to be back next week to complete the $389 billion omnibus measure, which wraps together the 11 fiscal 2003 spending bills that were left unfinished when Congress adjourned last year.
Yesterday, Republicans defeated an amendment by Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, that would have increased to $500 million a grant program that helps states fight crime. It was tabled 52-46.
"There are always things that need more money, but at some point you've got to get this done," said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.
Republicans have included some provisions in the omnibus bill that were not in last year's spending bills, but they have offset most of those additions by snipping a little from each agency through across-the-board cuts.
Democrats complained loudly about these cuts and offered an amendment to nullify them. It was defeated 52-46.
"It's unfair, it's unwise," top Senate Democratic appropriator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia said of the cuts.
Democrats said the across-the-board cuts would result in $113 million less for the FBI, meaning the elimination of 1,175 agents; $490 million less in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, meaning 79,000 fewer families will receive housing assistance.
They said the cuts also would mean $778 million less for the National Institutes of Health, a $107 million cut for Head Start and a $137 million cut in the Women Infants and Children program.
"If this is compassionate conservatism, then I don't want any part of it," said Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat and assistant minority leader.
But Republicans said Democrats were being deceptive.
"Not one FBI agent will be cut," shot back the Senate's top Republican appropriator, Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. He noted that even with the cuts, "you've still got an increase of almost three-quarters of a million dollars for the Department of Justice."
Mr. Stevens explained that when the Democrats talk about cuts, they are actually describing decreases in desired increases in spending. The bill, he said, does not go below fiscal 2002 funding levels and actually increases spending in many areas.
Despite the partisan tension, New York Democrat Sen. Charles E. Schumer managed to strike a deal with Republicans yesterday to designate $150 million already in the bill to go specifically for developing devices to detect radioactive or nuclear material at the nation's ports.
He said it was probably money "better spent protecting our security than any other money in that bill." The money would come from Transportation Security Administration funding.
Congress last year approved only the fiscal 2003 defense and military construction spending bills. The omnibus fiscal 2003 spending bill before the Senate funds the remaining 11 bills everything from the Forest Service to the FBI.
To meet the president's overall fiscal 2003 spending limit of $750.5 billion, Republican appropriators cut more than $9 billion from the 11 bills as they were approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate Appropriations Committee last year.
The omnibus measure originally had $385 billion to work with, but it's total has increased to $389 billion because of an administration request to include $3.9 billion more in the bill for defense and intelligence, and a Senate-added provision of $825 million for fighting wildfires.


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