House to introduce hefty temporary funding measure Wednesday

Congressional leaders are negotiating the contents of a continuing resolution to fund the government through Oct. 31, which House Appropriations Chairman C.W. (Bill) Young, R-Fla., will introduce Wednesday.

"I have the feeling it's not going to be too clean," Young said.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the CR would contain "must-do" items, which House and Senate GOP aides said were extensions of the expiring Airport Improvement Program, which funds airport infrastructure projects from aviation tax revenues; federal highway and mass transit programs, which also expire Sept. 30 and could otherwise furlough employees at several agencies, including the Federal Highway Administration; and the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. But aides said talks were ongoing, and that some provisions could still be considered separately.

Meanwhile, the House Wednesday approved by a 407-15 vote the conference report on a $368 billion fiscal 2004 Defense appropriations bill, making it the first appropriations conference report to be approved this year in either chamber.

At presstime, the House was considering the $29.4 billion fiscal 2004 Homeland Security spending conference report, which faces objections from Homeland Security Appropriations ranking member Martin Olav Sabo, D-Minn., and other Democrats. Sabo has offered a motion to recommit the bill and come back to one with one more similar to what the House passed earlier this month. It would require all cargo carried on passenger aircraft to be screened by Oct. 31, 2004, and boost funding in other areas. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., distributed a memo urging Democrats to support the motion, arguing the report "underfunds key homeland security priorities."

The House is scheduled to take up the fiscal 2004 Legislative Branch appropriations bill later Wednesday, and the Senate also could vote on House-approved conference reports Wednesday and later this week, Frist said. The Senate is considering the fiscal 2004 District of Columbia spending bill today, which could run into Democratic efforts to remove or modify a provision funding a school voucher program. A White House Statement of Administration Policy expressed support for the bill and "strongly urges the Senate to retain" the $13 million voucher program.

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