Appropriators detail supplemental, reprimand administration
The House Appropriations Committee's additions are partially paid for by more than $1.5 billion in offsets, including language to double the airline ticket tax and rescind $250 million in untapped balances from last fall's airline bailout bill--plus a $400 million cut in the administration's $4.4 billion request for the new Transportation Security Administration. Committee members have assailed the agency for not providing them with full and timely information about how the money would be spent.
But GOP leaders yet may face a revolt over the price tag by House conservatives, who have said they will oppose the supplemental if it exceeds the president's original $27.1 billion request. While the bill essentially tracks the president's request--submitted to Congress March 21--it contains several notable deviations, as well as a few cautionary words from custodians of the nation's purse strings to their colleagues in the executive branch.
Frustrated by the incomplete or inaccurate budget justification documents sent to the committee by several agencies--notably Transportation Security and Defense--the report on the supplemental contains a stern admonition: "The committee expects that the administration, and particularly the Office of Management and Budget, will take seriously the need to provide Congress with timely and meaningful materials in support of its budget request."
The committee proposed to rescind $750 million in salaries and expenses at OMB--or the amount of money it estimates OMB staffers who review agencies' homeland security budgets are paid.
"The committee believes that this duplication of effort is unnecessary," according to the report accompanying the supplemental.
The supplemental would appropriate nearly $15.8 billion to the Defense Department, almost $1.8 billion more than President Bush requested.
The extra funds would go mainly to cover personnel and operations costs of the war on terrorism, including the cost of calling up the National Guard and reserves.
The bill contains $1.35 billion in foreign aid, $225 million more than the president requested. And it includes language the administration sought, to allow aid to Colombia to be used in that country's war on illegal drug trafficking.
But it does not include administration-requested language to authorize the Pentagon to aid foreign nations and "indigenous forces" with defense services and training. Instead, that authority would remain in the State Department.
Bush's homeland security request would get an extra $522 million, for a total of $5.8 billion. Among beneficiaries of the committee's largesse are the Coast Guard ($33 million more than requested); the Army Corps of Engineers and Energy Department ($352 million more to enhance nuclear power plant and public works infrastructure security); and the Justice Department ($143 million more, for agencies such as the FBI and Immigration and Naturalization Service).
But the Justice Department would not get the $175 million the administration requested for grants to first responders. Nor would the money go to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Instead, the committee directs that it go to the newly established Office of Homeland Security, in what one source indicated could be a bid to hold the office accountable to Congress by formally appropriating money to it.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has refused to testify formally before Congress, citing his status as a presidential adviser and not a congressionally confirmed Cabinet secretary.
New York would get the $5.5 billion Bush requested to finance the ongoing costs of rebuilding.
Items added to the bill--but not requested by the Bush administration--include $650 million to implement the pending election reform bill; $417 million for veterans' medical care; $200 million to combat HIV and AIDS worldwide through the Child Survival and Health Fund; $1 billion to avert a shortfall in the Pell grant program; and $75 million to cover rising costs in the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.
The Appropriations Committee bill also continues last year's jurisdictional dustup with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee over the highway trust fund by including the appropriators' measure to restore to the fund $4.4 billion that would have been cut under the current funding formula, rather than the transit panel's version.
The Appropriations Committee also proposed again tapping the highway trust fund--a move sure to anger Transportation authorizers--to cover $167 million in emergency highway aid to New York, $19.3 million for transportation-related border security enforcement and $5 million for hazardous materials security initiatives.