House panel approves supplemental without AmeriCorps funding

The House Appropriations Committee approved a $2 billion fiscal 2003 emergency supplemental spending measure on a voice vote Monday night after fending off an amendment by Rep. David Price, D-N.C. that would have added $100 million for AmeriCorps. Price's amendment failed on a 34-24 vote.

VA-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., voted with Republicans against the AmeriCorps amendment.

As approved, the supplemental is about $100 million more than the administration's $1.9 billion request, and includes an extra $30 million for ongoing forest firefighting efforts over the $189 million request.

It also contains $32 million to cover expenses incurred by the federal judiciary related to additional district judgeships and an anticipated shortfall in attorney payments and fees for civil jurors, as well as $60 million for Army Corps of Engineers flood control efforts, both of which were not requested by the White House.

The measure contains $1.55 billion for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster relief efforts and $50 million for recovery expenses related to the space shuttle Columbia accident, as requested by the administration.

The Senate version of the supplemental, also worth $2 billion, is essentially the administration's request plus the additional $100 million for AmeriCorps, setting up a potentially difficult conference this week over the fiscal 2004 Legislative Branch funding measure, in which the Senate supplemental bill is included. House Appropriations Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla., said Monday he aimed to complete the conference this week.

House Appropriations ranking member David Obey, D-Wis., also offered an amendment to the House version of the supplemental that would have provided $50 million for the Transportation Security Administration to prevent the agency from making cuts in its sky marshal program. The amendment lost on a 32-21 vote.

In other action Monday, the House panel approved a $90 billion VA-HUD spending bill by voice vote after striking a provision supported by the administration that would have established a $250 enrollment fee and increased co-payments for prescription drugs from $7 to $15 for a 30-day supply for veterans whose illnesses are not service-connected or who make more than $24,000 annually.

The amendment by Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., passed on a voice vote and would offset the $264 million cost of reinstating the benefit by taking the funds from Veterans Affairs Department administrative expenses.

An earlier version of the amendment by Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, would have offset the enrollment fee elimination by reducing the 2001 tax cut.

The House may consider the VA-HUD bill this week, Young said.

Meanwhile, the Senate took up a $28.5 billion 2004 Homeland Security spending bill Monday, which Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he aims to complete this week.

Appropriations ranking member Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., offered an amendment to add almost $1.8 billion in funds for first responders and border, port, transit, air cargo and chemical facility security.

The House was expected to take up a $17.1 billion 2004 Foreign Operations bill Tuesday.

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