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Disagreement over supplemental stymies Defense spending bill

Unable to balance competing demands for supplemental spending from the White House and GOP leaders on one side and appropriators on the other, the House Appropriations Committee has postponed indefinitely its markup of the fiscal 2002 Defense bill and $20 billion terrorism supplemental.

The markup had been planned for today. But appropriations sources say they lack the votes in committee to report out a $20 billion supplemental title, even though the administration and Republican leaders are insisting that they cap it at $20 billion.

In notifying Congress Monday of the release of another $902 million from the administration's share of the supplemental spending, President Bush reiterated that he does not intend to request further supplemental funds for either defense or domestic needs this year.

Adhering to the administration line, GOP leaders have directed the Appropriations Committee not to exceed the overall $40 billion Congress appropriated immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks--$20 billion to be spent by the administration and $20 billion by Congress through the Defense supplemental title.

Of the $20 billion assigned to the administration, $10 billion could be spent without any formal notification requirements. The other $10 billion may be spent 15 days after Congress is given a detailed plan for the expenditure.

To date, the administration has allocated $9.7 billion, including the $902 million just released.

The latest installment includes $2.3 million to enhance security on the U.S.-Canadian border, $700 million in community development block grants for New York, $25 million to compensate the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority and its concessionaires for the closure of Reagan National Airport and $175 million for postal security.

According to a committee spokesman, OMB officials notified the committee over the weekend that of the $10.3 billion the administration has left to allocate, $8.3 billion is slated to go to defense needs.

Of the remainder, $700 million would go for foreign economic assistance, mostly to Pakistan, $100 million would be in food aid, and $290 million would be devoted to Capitol security.

Appropriators told Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels last Friday that until they knew how the administration planned to spend the remainder of the supplemental funds under its control, they could not mark up legislation to distribute the $20 billion they control.

Yet even with that information now in hand, the committee remains stymied--largely because it cannot fit all the anti- terrorism and domestic security needs it hopes to meet into its $20 billion allotment.

Another meeting of appropriators, GOP leaders and Daniels is on tap for today.

Appropriators continue to consider providing more than $20 billion in the supplemental--which will be attached to the Defense bill as a separate title.

Among devices being considered is a contingent emergency designation to cover the excess. Another proposal would draw on some of the funds the administration has yet to allocate.

The contingent emergency designation would require the White House to formally declare the extra spending an emergency-- something the administration opposes, particularly given the strict guidelines for emergency spending that Daniels has sought to enforce.