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Senate debate on supplemental could be long, bitter

Although Senate Republicans and Democrats both have pressed for speedy action on the wartime supplemental appropriations bill, the debate is shaping up to be acrimonious and possibly prolonged, with Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., again serving as a lightning rod for GOP combatants.

"The upcoming week will go about as smoothly as the last seven weeks for Sen. Daschle," warned one GOP aide.

The aide blamed the majority leader for provoking "unnecessary fights" with Republicans on the $31 billion bill marked up by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The aide cited the inclusion of language giving Cabinet status to Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's office and language requiring the president to spend from a contingency fund.

The aide also criticized Daschle's threat to consider adding an amendment creating an independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks, and faulted the bill for exceeding the president's spending request.

"These are all things that slow down the bill," said the aide. "You're threatening our troops in the field, our security in airports and our grandparents' Social Security checks."

Sources predicted Republicans would offer numerous amendments to the bill.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels is scheduled to meet with Senate Republicans Tuesday. A Republican leadership aide said Daniels would urge them to restrain spending on the supplemental.

Asked about the meeting, a GOP aide responded, "There's always the possibility of the Senate and the administration working together," although it was unclear whether the hand being extended would be grasped or "slapped away."

Majority Whip Harry Reid, D-Nev., predicted the Senate could complete action on the supplemental within a few days. And Democratic aides have said it remains possible that an amendment establishing an independent commission to investigate the attacks would be offered, although so-called hate crimes legislation that follows the supplemental might be a better vehicle.