House, Senate make progress on several spending bills

Marking continued progress on fiscal 2002 and 2003 spending, Senate and House appropriators completed a conference report on a supplemental spending bill and continued pushing a variety of spending bills through the legislative mill.

After completing a conference report on a $28.9 billion, 2002 homeland security supplemental bill Thursday, appropriators were able to move one more 2003 bill through the House-approving a $2.67 billion, Legislative Branch spending bill by a 365-49 vote.

The House also began debate on the $18.5 billion Treasury-Postal spending bill. The House approved the rule to debate the bill on a 224-188 vote, although debate was postponed until next week. The bill includes a 4.1 percent pay increase for federal employees next year.

Democrats opposed the rule because of objections that it would strip from the package a legislative add-on sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., to prevent government contracts from being awarded to companies that incorporate overseas.

A procedural vote on the bill also cleared the way for a fourth straight annual congressional pay raise, increasing their salaries about $5,000. That, in turn, would lead to pay increases for members of the Senior Executive Service, whose compensation is tied to salary levels for members of Congress.

Under a 1989 law, congressional pay raises, go into effect automatically unless lawmakers vote to block it. A 258-156 procedural vote Thursday effectively prevented lawmakers from offering an amendment to kill the raise.

Meanwhile, Thursday the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the 2003 Commerce-Justice-State, Defense, Foreign Operations and Labor-HHS spending bills.

Senate appropriators approved a $43.4 billion, Commerce-Justice-State bill with a focus on fighting terrorism and corporate fraud.

The Senate committee sent the measure to the full Senate on a 29-0 vote.

Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., said the bill contains $12.8 billion for homeland security spread through various programs.

To fight white-collar crime, the Securities and Exchange Commission was funded at $750.5 million-$283.6 million above President Bush's request and $312 million above the current fiscal 2002 level.

The Senate's $355.4 billion 2003 Defense appropriation bill was $700 million over the House amount and $35 billion over the appropriation for 2002.

Senators came up $11.4 billion short of what the Bush administration sought-although $10 billion of what they took out was the amount requested for anti-terrorism.

Committee members have said they will take up the $10 billion request when the president resubmits the request with specifics.

The $16.3 billion, Foreign Operations bill contains $50 million for the United Nations Population Fund, $750 million for AIDS programs and $637 million for anti-drug efforts in the Andes region of South America.

The committee also approved an amendment by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Appropriations ranking member Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to give Indonesia increased access to U.S. military training under the International Military Education and Training program.

Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., opposed the amendment, saying Indonesia's military has not taken sufficient action to address corruption and human rights abuses.

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