McCain seeks to add funds to Defense supplemental

Even as the Senate battle over managed care legislation goes into overtime, another storm may be brewing over the fiscal 2001 defense supplemental appropriations bill. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is planning to offer amendments to the $6.5 billion measure.

Under a unanimous consent agreement reached Thursday night, the Senate will take up the supplemental July 9 when it returns from the July Fourth recess. In addition to a manager's amendment to be offered by Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and ranking member Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, the unanimous consent agreement cleared 40 other first-degree amendments for consideration, including two from McCain.

Friday, McCain said he is still working on the particulars of his supplemental bill amendments, and has not determined how much additional money he would seek to add to the $5.5 billion included for defense in the bill.

He said that he is "going to try on at least one" of the two to provide offsets; otherwise, he would have to seek an emergency designation--for which he would need 60 votes under Senate rules.

But McCain was clear about his motivations, saying, "It's an important point to make" that the Defense Department has billions of dollars of pressing needs that cannot be met by the supplemental.

McCain, who was one of only two Republican senators to vote against President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax package, added, "The tax cut precluded us from having enough money for Social Security, Medicare and defense."

McCain went on to say he would have testimony about the Pentagon's unmet needs from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to buttress his argument.

But McCain may be fighting another uphill battle within his own caucus, particularly on an amendment without offsets. The Bush administration has repeatedly stressed that it wants to keep the supplemental to justifiable year-end needs and has discouraged Congress from using the emergency designation, which allows money to be spent but not counted against the budget caps.

Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Friday he would oppose McCain's amendments, saying, "We've got to stay within the limit of the budget for this fiscal year." As written, the supplemental uses up all of the remaining room under the fiscal 2001 cap. Lott also noted, "The President says this is enough."

Even Stevens, the ranking member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said he would confer with the White House and Defense Department over the recess before deciding whether to support McCain. But he, too, stressed the need to stay within the fiscal 2001 budget limits.

Among the other amendments, Sen. Christopher (Kit) Bond, R- Mo., will seek to add another $1 billion in emergency funds for defense, and $158 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the Mississippi River.

Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., will seek to increase the $300 million already in the bill for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., will try to strip out $33.9 million for the IRS to send out a letter to taxpayers about upcoming tax rebate checks.

And senators from Georgia, Kansas and Idaho will jointly offer language blocking fiscal 2001 funds from being spent to carry out Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's proposal to cut and consolidate the B-1 bomber fleet.

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