Conferees work to wrap up war supplemental
Conferees on the nearly $80 billion fiscal 2003 war supplemental appropriations bill Friday adopted just one amendment-on Defense Department notification to Congress about spending from the Defense Emergency Reserve Fund-during the hour they met before recessing for House votes.
With the prospects for a quick end to the conference in doubt, House leaders were facing a Saturday session unless they struck a deal to allow most legislators to go home.
Leaders were contemplating seeking unanimous consent agreements so final votes on the supplemental conference report could be done by voice, perhaps by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla., and ranking member David Obey, D-Wis., alone.
House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., said two unanimous consent agreements would be needed, one to allow the conference report to be brought to the floor, and the other to waive a requirement for a roll-call vote.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said it "would be very preferable" to get an agreement, but warned, "It does not guarantee that there would not be a [Saturday] vote."
After the conference suspended, Young told reporters that once conferees deal with the additional provisions in the Senate version of the bill, everything else should fall into place quickly.
Before recessing, House and Senate appropriators agreed by voice vote to require the Defense Department to notify Congress five days prior to spending money from the $15 billion from the reserve fund, after Senate Appropriations ranking member Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Obey objected strenuously to the Defense subcommittees' tentative compromise to require only simultaneous, rather than prior, notice to Congress.
Byrd initially called for conferees to reinstate the seven-day notification requirement in the House bill, but accepted Obey's offer to push for just five.
There remain several outstanding issues, almost exclusively the Senate amendments, across several subcommittees, including a dairy provision regarding milk sales in California and Las Vegas, Nev.; language to allow wild seafood to be labeled organic; $98 million for federal agriculture research labs in Iowa; payments to catfish farmers; $5 million for communications systems in Louisville, Ky., $52 million for the Center for Antiterrorism and Security Training in Maryland; $117 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, primarily for satellite construction; $3.3 million for a Vermont dam; $9 million for the National Park Service; $1 million for the Jobs for America's Graduates program; language that would block a German-owned carrier company from getting Iraqi reconstruction contracts instead of the U.S.-owned carriers UPS and Federal Express; and whether the Defense Department or the State Department should be the lead executive branch agency on reconstruction of Iraq.