Defense spending bill headed for Senate floor

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., Tuesday said he hopes to move the fiscal 2003 Defense Appropriations bill to the Senate floor next week$#151;which would meet one of the key scheduling demands made by President Bush and congressional Republicans.

"I want to do that before we go out," Byrd told CongressDaily. "I'm not doing it because he wants it, however."

Byrd said he also wanted to take up the Interior appropriations bill on the floor next week and planned to mark up the five remaining appropriations bills in committee by the end of the week.

"We're moving the appropriations bills," Byrd said.

Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., have been chastising Democrats for the Senate's failure to pass more than one spending bill so far this year.

Byrd also said he wanted to pass the fiscal 2002 supplemental conference report, and even said he would like to see the Senate get to the 2003 Labor-HHS appropriations bill.

A GOP leadership aide said Republicans would be willing to let the Interior spending bill come up before the Defense appropriations measure, provided that Democrats make a commitment to take up the Defense spending bill.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who sets the schedule, has said he will insist on completing prescription drug legislation before the August recess. He also plans to bring up legislation to create the Homeland Security Department next week. He has said, however, that he hopes to move spending bills on a "dual track" with other legislation.