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Panels approve $80-billion for terror, Iraq wars

©Associated Press

April 2, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The House and Senate Appropriations committees approved similar bills Tuesday containing nearly $80-billion for initial costs of the war with Iraq and other antiterrorism efforts, including aid for the nation's struggling airlines.

Both measures exceeded the $74.7-billion that President Bush requested last week for the remaining six months of the government's budget year. And both Republican-controlled panels weakened the wide latitude Bush had sought for spending most of the money, which he had argued was needed to quickly respond to the uncertainties of war.

Other, smaller funds giving agencies like the Justice and Homeland Security departments broad control of money were also dismantled or trimmed. That reflected a long-standing bipartisan legislative resentment of executive branch efforts to usurp Congress' power of the purse.

"We didn't just create huge slush funds to be used at the discretion of an agency," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, R-Largo.

The overwhelming votes of approval -- 59-0 in the House committee, 29-0 by the Senate panel -- underscored lawmakers' desires to quickly approve the aid while U.S. troops shoot their way toward Baghdad. Bush has requested the funds by April 11, and GOP leaders hope the full House and Senate will approve initial versions of the bills this week.

But a series of votes and remarks also spotlighted the pressures many lawmakers feel to increase spending for local law enforcement and emergency agencies.

By a party-line 35-28, the House panel rejected a Democratic effort to add $2.5-billion to the $4.2-billion that measure contains for domestic security initiatives, the same as Bush requested.

Though Democratic senators offered no amendments to the $4.6-billion in the Senate version, they spoke of trying to add up to $9-billion when the full Senate debates the measure, perhaps beginning Wednesday.

Overall, the House bill's total price tag was $77.9-billion. Senate aides still totaling their bill's cost said it approached $80-billion.

With broad support from both parties, the House panel added $3.2-billion for grants for airline companies, which have lobbied heavily for aid.

The Senate panel approved $2.7-billion for expenses including airlines' security costs, aid to airports, and extended unemployment benefits for jobless air industry workers.

The bulk of both bills was for the Pentagon: $62.5-billion approved by the House and $62.6-billion by the Senate, which is what Bush requested.

But while Bush proposed giving the Defense Department unfettered control over $59.9-billion of those funds, the House limited his flexibility to $25.4-billion, the Senate to $11-billion. The two committees applied the rest to specific Pentagon accounts.

The House bill contained the same $7.8-billion Bush proposed to rebuild Iraq and to help U.S. allies, while the Senate added $200-million. Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Afghanistan, the Philippines and other countries would receive assistance, and the House included $71.5-million for an interim U.S. diplomatic facility in postwar Iraq.

The House also included $165-million for administering smallpox vaccines and compensating volunteers who get ill after taking the shot, and for research into severe acute respiratory syndrome, which is spreading in Asia and elsewhere.

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