House, Senate appropriators could finish by Thursday

House and Senate Appropriations Committee sources Monday reported that, after a weekend of successful staff-level negotiations on supplemental spending, they hope to wrap up the fiscal 2002 appropriations cycle in the House, if not the Senate, as soon as Thursday.

Although the four chairmen and ranking members have yet to reconvene after last week's deadlock and staffers have a pivotal negotiating session set for tonight, the tentative schedule anticipates a conference committee meeting on the fiscal 2002 Defense appropriations bill and anti-terrorism supplemental Tuesday, and a House floor vote Thursday on what will be the 13th and final 2002 spending bill.

Appropriators plan to conference the Labor-HHS appropriations bill at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and bring both it and the Foreign Operations spending conference report to the floor Wednesday.

Although the Defense and supplemental conference report is coming together, it may face another bump in the road because of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Late Friday, Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young, R-Alaksa, ranking member James Oberstar, D-Minn., and the chairmen and ranking members of the panel's six subcommittees fired off a toughly worded letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., and other top leaders asking for the opportunity to "review and approve" transportation-related provisions in the supplemental, charging that they violate the committee's jurisdiction.

The authorizers also asked for the conference report to be filed and available for review "at least eight hours before consideration of the rule," and noted they "would have a serious problems with a rule that would prevent points of order from being raised against these provisions, and any procedure to expedite consideration of a conference report containing such provisions, unless these issues have been satisfactorily resolved."

Appropriators and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee authorizers tangled during the vote on the rule for the supplemental and again during floor debate over appropriators' attempt to tap the highway and aviation trust funds to finance supplemental spending for aviation and highway security items.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee got the move reversed on a point of order, but has been on guard ever since to prevent the restoration of that language in conference. Today, an Appropriations spokesman responded, "The committee has got too much on its plate to worry about some petty jurisdictional tiff."

As for the eight-hour layover, he said, "If that's going to be the standard, we would request the same standard be applied to [the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee]," noting that the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century surface transportation bill and the more recent aviation security bill both went to the floor before most lawmakers could read them.

"Sometimes we have to do things quickly. If they want to vote against the bill because of their concerns, they have that right," the Appropriations Committee spokesman added.

A spokesman for Hastert noted: "This is a thorny problem. We will work, and have been working, to resolve these issues" between the two powerful committees.

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