House prepares for action on Defense, spending bills

When the House returns Thursday, Republican leaders hope to take up a number of bills, including fiscal 2002 appropriations measures that were put aside while Congress responded to last week's terrorist crisis. The House, scheduled to be in session Thursday and Friday, will likely take up defense authorization legislation Thursday with votes postponed until noon, and may approve the fiscal 2002 Military Construction appropriations bill by unanimous consent Friday. House leaders face a compressed floor schedule next week as the House is scheduled to work Monday and Tuesday before recessing Wednesday afternoon and the remainder of the week to allow members to observe Yom Kippur. In addition to defense authorization and Military Construction spending bills, House leaders also expect a number of suspension bills, motions and to go to conference on spending bills and an airline industry assistance package, as soon as it is ready. Despite the tight schedule, House leaders do not anticipate a weekend session. "If we could squeeze as much in these four or five days, that would be a good thing," one GOP leadership aide said. Meanwhile, House and Senate appropriators continue to meet with an eye to finalizing a framework by week's end for completing the regular fiscal 2002 spending bills, perhaps by the end of October. Their goal remains to keep total non-emergency outlays for fiscal 2002 at $691 billion. Leaving a meeting of top Senate Republicans today, Appropriations ranking member Ted Stevens, R- Alaska, said the House and Senate Appropriations chairmen and ranking members are "working very hard to eliminate some of the road blocks" to quick action on the fiscal 2002 bills. "It's a different attitude now," he stressed. "We want to get our job done and get home - and stay home." But Stevens joined the chorus of appropriators who have rejected the idea of doing a long-term continuing resolution. "We're going to stay here until we finish our job - no long-term CR," Stevens said. A spokesman for House Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., also rejected the idea of wrapping everything into an omnibus package. "Sen. Byrd continues to push for 13 individual bills. He's not going to go along with this omnibus, and he's not a fan of across-the-board cuts, either," the spokesman said. House appropriators also hope to appoint conferees by the end of the week on five of the six fiscal 2002 spending bills that have passed both chambers. The Senate is debating its seventh fiscal 2002 bill, Treasury-Postal, today, with votes expected Friday. A Senate Appropriations Committee spokesman said it is "quite possible" the full committee will mark up the District of Columbia and Military Construction bills next week. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up its version of those bills Thursday, followed by floor action on the Military Construction bill Friday and on the District of Columbia bill next Tuesday. ' The House is slated to act on a two-week continuing resolution next Monday, with Senate passage expected Tuesday. Meanwhile, Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee ranking member Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Congress would change its approach to foreign aid and sanctions to suit the new international environment. "I think foreign aid is a useful tool in the war on terrorism," he said. "The whole bill is open to being reworked in a way that helps us win the war." He said support might be provided to nations who are cooperating with the United States, "and none for those who aren't."