Appropriations Threats

Senate leaders today exchanged high-stakes threats over FY97 appropriations measures, as Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said Democrats will not allow Congress to leave town without addressing Democratic spending priorities and Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said he will pull any funding measure that becomes bogged down by political amendments.

"We believe it is important for Congress to stay here and do its job," Daschle said, as Democrats unveiled a $3.1 billion education amendment they said will be their top appropriations priority. Daschle left open the possibility Democrats may filibuster the FY97 Labor-HHS appropriations measure if they do not get their way.

Lott Thursday pulled the FY97 Treasury-Postal appropriations measure, noting more than 100 amendments had been offered to the bill, which he said should have been non-controversial. "That was a big disappointment to me, a very poor exhibition by the Senate," Lott said on the floor today. He added, "I've been playing it straight. I've been trying to avoid amendments that are political."

As the Senate went to the FY97 Interior appropriations measure, Lott said he would pull that bill if Democrats try to obstruct it. Daschle said Democrats were trying to cooperate on the Treasury-Postal bill. "For the life of me, I don't know why [Lott] made that decision," Daschle said, adding that Democrats had agreed to offer six or seven amendments, but it is "very difficult to cooperate when you're surprised like that."

"The Republicans are in a hurry to leave town, but school is not out until this Congress meets the educational needs of children," Daschle said. The Democratic amendment would increase education funding levels to those contained in the Clinton administration budget request. It would boost Goals 2000 funding by $136 million, Title I compensatory education funding by $435 million, summer youth jobs program funding by $246 million and education assistance for dislocated workers by $193 million.

Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said the amendment would be offset by a spectrum sale from the Digital Audio Radio service portion of the spectrum, adding that the House already approved that sale to help pay for the gasoline tax rollback.

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