GOP takes hard line on using Defense bill to boost other agencies' budgets

Setting up an unpredictable party line vote today over the price tag for the war on terrorism, House GOP leaders instructed the Rules Committee Tuesday night to refuse any amendments to the fiscal 2002 Defense appropriations bill that add billions to supplemental spending on domestic security, the military and recovery.

Although the $317.5 billion Defense bill is expected to pass by a wide bipartisan margin, the preceding votes on the rule and motion to recommit are likely to be nail biters, as GOP leaders try to rein in wayward Republicans as they operate with a bare eight-vote margin.

GOP leaders must not only prevent New York Republicans from using the rule to register their dissatisfaction over the amount of aid in the supplemental for their state, but must also shore up support for the rule among GOP members from northern border and coastal areas who like Democrats' proposed increases for the Coast Guard, INS and border patrol.

And in the latest round in the ongoing turf battle between the Appropriations and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla., served notice to his leadership his committee was upset that the supplemental would use money from the airport and highway trust funds, which are financed by user fees, to cover supplemental funding for FAA operations and facilities, and emergency highway rebuilding. Young wrote to the Rules Committee Tuesday asking that those provisions not be protected from a point of order--a proposition that appropriators vigorously oppose.

In another jurisdictional battle late Tuesday, House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney, R-Ohio, objected to language in the bill inserted by the GOP leadership to create an Office of Emergency Planning, Preparedness and Operations. Ney pressed a variety of initiatives to strip the language from the bill.

At presstime Tuesday night, Rep. John Sweeney was the only New York Republican expected to vote against the rule. Sweeney had not returned to Washington Tuesday night, and his spokesman said Sweeney had not made a final call.

Other GOP New Yorkers indicated Tuesday they were satisfied with the compromise their colleagues, Reps. James Walsh and Thomas Reynolds, struck with the White House and GOP leaders before the Thanksgiving break.

Rep. Felix Grucci, R-N.Y., said he believes the President will honor his commitment to aid New York, and is satisfied with what has been promised or provided to date. Grucci stressed the need to back President Bush as the war progresses.

"Voting against the rule and taking down the Defense bill may not necessarily be the thing to do," Grucci said. "I'm satisfied with where we are."

Walsh, Sweeney and Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., narrowly lost a vote in the Appropriations Committee earlier this month to add $9.7 billion in recovery aid for New York to the $20 billion supplemental. The move was part of their quest to ensure that by year's end New York would get the full $20 billion Bush promised the state.

To date, roughly $9.6 billion has been allocated for New York's recovery out of the full $40 billion in emergency money Congress appropriated immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks.

But Bush's threat to veto any legislation to provide more supplemental funding this year stopped their amendment, as well as an amendment by Appropriations ranking member David Obey, D- Wis., to add $7.3 billion for homeland security and domestic recovery, and one by Defense Subcommittee ranking member John Murtha, D-Pa., to put another $6.5 billion into the Pentagon's supplemental budget.

Walsh and Reynolds cut a deal with their leadership and the administration on the eve of the Thanksgiving break to move some money around within the $20 billion to give New York a larger share of the pie, including a total of $2.5 billion in Community Development Block Grants, $32.5 million for worker training, $175 million for workers' compensation, $12 million for the Centers for Disease Control and $10.5 million for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The money would be provided by cutting National Emergency Grants to all states for aiding displaced workers, and a $555 million cut in the FEMA disaster relief account.

Most GOP New Yorkers say they are now satisfied, especially after Gov. George Pataki and New York Mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg blessed the deal.

But Sweeney--who was excluded from the final deal making session in favor of the more consensus-oriented Reynolds--teamed up with Lowey to push for an amendment to give New York another $10.4 billion.

The rule is expected to include language to automatically amend the bill with the Walsh deal, but not allow the Obey, Murtha or Lowey-Sweeney amendments to be offered.

By not allowing the amendments, New York Democrats appearing before the Rules Committee Tuesday night said the GOP leadership had "welched" on a pledge to help New York recover.

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