GOP plans to pass spending bills by Jan. 21

Republican leaders in the House and Senate plan to approve the remaining 11 fiscal 2003 spending bills within the first 10 days of the 108th Congress.

Republicans agreed on a schedule for the appropriations measures over the last few days, sources said. "We want to get them done before the State of the Union," said a spokesman for incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

Other sources said Republicans want to complete work on this year's spending measures in order to "clear the table" of outstanding bills, so that Bush can focus on future priorities in his speech. Bush plans to deliver the annual speech to Congress Jan. 21, leaving congressional leaders just two weeks to complete work on the appropriations work after returning to Capitol Hill Jan. 7. Republicans hope to move the spending bills one-by-one, but have not ruled out an omnibus package.

Meanwhile, incoming Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has said he would like to try to live within the president's budget total of about $750.4 billion. But in order to do that, Stevens and Senate Appropriations subcommittee chairmen will have to trim more than $15 billion-including regular appropriations, emergencies and added highway money-from the fiscal 2003 bills passed under outgoing Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W. Va.

Republicans are hoping that some savings can be found in agency budgets, given that one-third of the fiscal year will be over by the end of January.

It also is considered possible that appropriators will not fund certain items, hoping to attach them instead to an fiscal 2003 supplemental bill early next year. But that particular strategy could draw the ire of the White House, which opposed a beefed-up fiscal 2002 supplemental because of congressional add-ons.