White House, in reversal, to seek more supplemental spending

Despite repeated and forceful administration statements that it would not request another fiscal 2003 supplemental spending bill, Vice President Dick Cheney informed House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, at a meeting Wednesday that the administration plans to request roughly $1.6 billion in emergency supplemental funds, primarily to replenish Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance accounts, according to several GOP sources.

Another $52 million would cover the cost of sending taxpayers the additional $400 in per-child tax credits they are owed under the recently enacted $330 billion tax cut.

The administration is expected to send its request to Congress soon, according to one GOP source.

While the administration's request is not for more money for war-related expenses-the main subject of the previous supplemental-fiscal conservatives on Capitol Hill are nevertheless miffed by the request. They were already skeptical about the deal cut Wednesday by the White House, the Republican leadership and the Appropriations chairmen to give appropriators another $5.2 billion in fiscal 2004 funds to sprinkle among the domestic accounts. They have stressed they would accept the deal only if it were the sole time that money is added to the appropriations process.

Asked about the upcoming supplemental request, one conservative GOP source said: "There's no doubt that any supplemental creates the opportunity to undo the fiscal discipline we're trying to establish. It's the usual concern. We all know that emergencies occur-but the key element here is that [appropriators] would find items that would normally be funded in the regular appropriations process [and] put them on the 'emergency train,' " to free up room for more new spending in the 2004 bills.

Another conservative source said this new supplemental will be met with "a relative coolness" from conservatives, particularly because of the timing. But because it comes from the White House, the source predicted the reaction "will be muffled screaming into pillows" rather than open revolt by disgruntled conservatives.

This source also said that, in general, conservatives are skeptical about FEMA accounting and whether the agency truly needs supplemental funds.

GOP sources said they intend to attach the administration's disaster supplemental to one of the first 2004 appropriations bills to hit the floor, rather than move it as a stand-alone bill.