GOP defense hawks assuaged as House debate starts

House Armed Services Committee hardliners returned from a meeting with President Bush Wednesday afternoon prepared to support the fiscal 2003 budget resolution after the White House agreed to authorization language that would allow the panel to oversee the entire $10 billion in a defense reserve fund.

"My position is that they have met our concerns and I intend to support this resolution," Armed Services Military Research and Development Subcommittee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said.

The agreement cleared the way for the House to begin debate on the budget resolution Wednesday afternoon. House Democrats sought to delay the budget debate with several procedural obstacles--including motions to adjourn--out of frustration that no Democratic amendments were allowed.

Few House Democrats are expected to vote for the resolution, forcing Republican leaders to secure nearly every GOP vote for passage. The White House meeting was meant to secure those votes.

"It's tightened that language to make sure it's for defense, and not pulled off for peripheral uses," Hunter said.

He also said Bush assured them Hunter's panel would have ample opportunity to mark up a separate authorization for the administration's $10 billion request. Hunter added that the White House also promised to give consideration to military modernization from the reserve fund and in an expected fiscal 2002 supplemental spending bill.