- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 5, 2009

Senate Democrats rejected a move Thursday to ban U.S. dollars going to a U.N. family-planning program that critics say promotes abortions, one of more than a dozen Bush administration policies being erased in a $410 billion omnibus spending bill.

The sponsor of the defeated measure, Republican Sen. Roger F. Wicker of Mississippi, said it would prevent taxpayer dollars helping the U.N. Population Fund support forced sterilization and abortion as part of China’s “one-child” policy.

“The United States must side with the women and children that have been victimized by China’s one-child policy,” Mr. Wicker said.

Democrats insisted that language in the spending bill, which funds most federal agencies until the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, already prohibits money going to programs that support abortion or forced sterilization.

“The amendment is unnecessary,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, said during debate. “None of us are going to permit the use of federal funds for involuntary sterilization.”

The amendment died in a 55-39 vote, with three three Democrat — Evan Bayh of Indiana, Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania and Ben Nelson of Nebraska — siding with 36 Republicans in support.

Republican Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both of Maine, joined two independents and 50 Democrats in opposition.

A final Senate vote on the omnibus could come as soon as Thursday. The bill replaces stopgap funding that is keeping the government running but expires at midnight Friday.

The Democrat-led Congress must approve the omnibus or another temporary measure by then or else the federal government will shut down.

The House passed the omnibus last week, though any changes the Senate makes to the bill will require another House vote.

The policy shifts and the spending increase, as well as about 9,000 earmarks costing $12.8 billion for lawmakers’ pet projects in the omnibus package, have fueled widespread Republican opposition to the bill.

Republican leaders criticized the omnibus as more of Democrats’ “borrow-and-spend” governing and noted that the omnibus heaps funding on about 122 programs previously funded by the $787 billion economic stimulus.

It also is a forerunner of the president’s $3.5 trillion budget for fiscal 2010, which begins Oct. 1.

Despite President Obama’s oft-stated distaste for earmark pork and the ways of Washington, the White House said it will not take a stand against the projects because the legislation originated under the previous administration and therefore represents the final Bush budget bill.

The White House said Monday it will release new rules for earmarks prior to signing the omnibus bill, a proposal that quickly exposed a rift with Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill.

The defeat of the Wicker amendment was one in a series of setbacks for Republicans trying to either preserve Bush administration policy or reduce spending in the legislation.

The Senate previously shot down a several Republican measures that would have frozen federal spending at 2008 levels for the current fiscal year. Democrats said higher sending was crucial to responding to the economic crisis and necessary to replenish vital services starved by President George W. Bush.

The omnibus guts several of the previous administration’s programs with funding cuts and policy changes, such as ending the ban on funding the U.N. Population Fund.

It including language to “consider” government health care benefits for same-sex domestic partners of federal workers and to eliminating D.C. school vouchers, which Democrats consider an affront to the public school system.

The bill also slashes funds for abstinence education and erases language prohibiting a “fairness doctrine” law that threatens to squelch conservative talk radio.

Democrats have said the omnibus was necessary only because of Mr. Bush’s veto threat last year for any appropriation bills that exceeded his spending limit. They said Mr. Bush’s programs would have been funded through the end of the fiscal year if he had allowed added spending for some of the Democrats’ priorities.

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