Hill appropriators tell Bush to send supplemental spending request

Congressional appropriators have told the Bush administration to send its fiscal 2001 supplemental spending request to Capitol Hill before Memorial Day if the White House wants to get the final package by the end of June.

Administration officials have indicated they want to wait on the supplemental until after Congress completes work on Bush's tax cut, which is expected to take until the end of this week.

The final contents of the request have yet to be determined--aside from the $6.5 billion in supplemental fiscal 2001 defense funds already built into the budget resolution. But one proposal is for a 10 percent increase in the members' representational allowance, or their personal office budget.

The House Administration Committee authorized the increase earlier this year at the behest of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., but the additional funds, which sources said could amount to roughly $60 million, have yet to be provided.

A spokesman for Hastert confirmed that the speaker had committed himself to the increase, and "did anticipate there would be a [funding] shortfall" that would have to be made up.

But he added: "It's not a done deal that it will be in supplemental. The timing and amount have yet to be determined."

The increase, he explained, was meant to give members additional funds to pay staff, as Republican leaders feared a congressional "brain drain" to the Bush White House, and for technology upgrades.

Other items mentioned for inclusion in the eventual fiscal 2001 supplemental include between $300 million and $600 million for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program: about $100 million for renovations to the Supreme Court, disaster relief for Western fire fighting, Midwestern flood repairs and aid to farmers; roughly $115 million for the Treasury Department to process and carry out any fiscal 2001 tax cut Congress enacts; and $112 million for Coast Guard operations.

But a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee cautioned that until the administration formally submits its request, "any speculation on the supplemental is premature."

He added, "The only thing we have done is seek to identify what [supplemental funding needs] might be out there."

Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels met earlier this week with Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Warner, and a day later with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla., to discuss the timing for sending up the supplemental, as well as to look ahead to the fiscal 2002 appropriations cycle.

Young said he argued for the administration to get the supplemental request to Capitol Hill next week if the president wants a final product ready by the end of June.

House appropriators have also sketched out a preliminary schedule for moving the fiscal 2002 bills under which the first bills to be reported out of committee, during the month of June, would be the Agriculture, Interior, Energy and Water and Transportation bills.

Because of the ongoing strategic review being conducted by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, appropriators say they will not be able to move the fiscal 2002 Defense and Military Construction bills until September.

Also not expected until September is the Labor-HHS bill, in part because appropriators must await the outcome of House and Senate conference committee negotiations on the education reform bill to get the funding authorization levels for their bill.

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