Bush summons GOP leaders on supplemental spending bill

In a bid to jump-start congressional action on his $27.1 billion fiscal 2002 supplemental spending request, President Bush called House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla., to the White House for a meeting Wednesday.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., also is expected to attend the meeting, which comes nearly six weeks after Bush first asked for the emergency spending package. Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, who has sparred with appropriators over the supplemental, is not expected to attend.

But after receiving threats that any legislation exceeding $27 billion would be vetoed, Young is expected to arrive with a message of his own for the president: Let the committee do its work before issuing any veto threats. The panel has not yet marked up an emergency spending bill.

With the prospect of a veto hanging over their heads, appropriators and House leaders have been negotiating for weeks over the size and content of the supplemental. They have sought offsets to pay for additional spending to cover extra resources for the Defense Department and homeland security needs.

Also proposed as part of the supplemental bill: $650 million to implement pending election reform legislation; $200 million for Israel; and $1.3 billion to make up the shortfall in 2002 Pell grant funding.

Amendments also are expected in both chambers to add $500 million to $750 million to the supplemental for HIV/AIDS spending worldwide.

On Tuesday, Hastert told CongressDaily that the purpose of the White House meeting is "to get an agreement" on the supplemental so it can move through the House.

In particular, Hastert said appropriators still needed information about certain items in Bush's request "that to them have been unclear."

GOP sources later said the questions involved "defense- related" matters. Appropriators want to know why OMB did not include in Bush's final supplemental request some of the extra spending the Pentagon had been seeking.

Appropriators also have unanswered questions about nearly $2 billion requested for the new Transportation Security Administration.

Hastert said the leaders "need to find a way to accommodate everybody's needs--well, almost everybody's needs."

However, with Congress members wanting to add so many different items to the package and the administration insisting it not exceed $27 billion, the task has not been easy for Appropriations Committee members.

Appropriators already have fallen behind on their schedule for moving the package, which they had hoped to mark up Thursday and send to the House floor next week.

At this point, a markup is not possible until next week, and floor action is not likely until the third week in May--even though House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said earlier Tuesday he would push for the supplemental to go to the floor next week.

The Senate Appropriations Committee does not plan to mark up its version of the bill until after the House acts.

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