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Democrats Continue to Blast Supplemental as Both Chambers Near Final Votes

As Congress debates a wartime spending bill, Democrats on both sides of Capitol Hill are dissatisfied with the parameters.

In the House, Democrats railed about the Republican leadership’s decision to prevent their main amendment from coming to the floor.

The Democratic proposal would have added $2.5 billion for homeland security measures such as increased port and chemical plant security, as well as more money for emergency personnel.

“This bill is a $70 billion bill to pay for a war to help bring democracy [to Iraq], yet democracy is being denied on the House floor,” said the amendment’s author, Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), ranking member of the Appropriations Committee.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) took the opportunity Thursday to take aim at the GOP leadership’s priorities.

“Yesterday, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay [R-Texas] said, quote, ‘Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes,’” she said. “Not the safety and success of our troops, not keeping nuclear materials from entering the country through our ports, not equipping police and firefighters with the tools they need to defend us against terrorist attack.”

Republicans counterattacked before the final vote.

House Appropriations Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) issued a press release noting that since fiscal 2002, a total of $10.7 billion has been appropriated to assist states and localities for terrorism prevention and preparedness, general law enforcement, firefighter assistance, airport security, seaport security, and public health preparedness.

“The pending supplemental includes $2.2 billion for these efforts; the president’s fiscal year 2004 request includes an additional $6.4 billion in assistance to states and localities,” the release stated. “This is a combined total of $19.3 billion over the fiscal year 2002-2004 period.”

The Senate also rebuffed Democratic amendments to add homeland security dollars to the almost $80 billion bill.

“The administration’s supplemental budget suffers from a significant blind spot that we ignore at the peril of the safety and security of every American,” Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) said before seeing most of his party’s amendments tabled. “The president’s request properly recognizes the urgent need to equip our troops with all the tools they need to complete their mission. But this supplemental request, and the budget it augments, fails to provide sufficient resources to address this nation’s vulnerabilities to terrorist attack and our obligation to support the men and women who protect us,” he said.

Both chambers’ bills would also give aid to the struggling airline industry, even though the White House made no such request.

Because such additions raise the figure originally requested by the White House, administration officials have said they think the package is too big.

“The White House did not come forward with a number [for airline security], and I’m not getting into a fight with the White House on it. It is really up to the Congress,” Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said.

The House bill would grant the airline industry $3.2 billion, while the Senate would offer $3.5 billion in assistance under widely differing plans.

“What I did was real dollars,” Hastert said about the House approach. “You can get into speculation. I’m not sure how you figure out what that is.

“People will say, well, these airlines are inefficient; airline executives are going to make a lot of money off of this. I think there are protections in this,” Hastert said.

“We will work with the Senate and try to come out with a compromise.”

Both chambers were expected to pass bills Thursday night.

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