Congressional negotiators near pact on $20 billion anti-terrorism package
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate and House negotiators neared a deal Monday on a $20 billion anti-terrorism package heeding President Bush’s demands for spending restraint but devoting more than he wanted to domestic security and rebuilding from the Sept. 11 attacks.
Aides were hoping to shake hands on the outlines of an agreement that leading lawmakers could approve on Tuesday. Doing so would clear the major remaining hurdle to Congress finishing its must-pass spending legislation and adjourning for the year, which leaders hope to do by week’s end.
The emerging package’s $20 billion price tag would be a win for Bush, who repeatedly has threatened to veto anything more expensive. He has said the measure provides enough money for now for the war in Afghanistan and the battle against terrorism, and that he will seek more early next year if necessary.
Thanks to White House pressure, Democrats lost efforts in recent weeks to push packages through the House and Senate that were worth at least $15 billion more.
Yet the mix of spending the bargainers were discussing — described by officials familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity — was tilted more toward Democrats.
It would cut the $7.3 billion for the military that Bush wanted to roughly $3.5 billion to $4 billion, the officials said. The Democratic-controlled Senate provided $2 billion for defense.
In addition, a bit less than $8.5 billion would be set aside for domestic security programs, and about the same amount would be provided for the New York and Washington areas, where jets smashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Western Pennsylvania, where a fourth jetliner crashed, would get a small portion of those rebuilding funds.
The exact defense figure would depend on whether money for the National Guard and rebuilding of the Pentagon were counted as spending for the military, and how much was provided for those efforts, the officials said.
Bush had proposed spending $4.4 billion for domestic security and $6.3 billion for the affected communities. The Senate had approved $8.5 billion for domestic security and $9.5 billion for New York and Virginia.
The tentative package would include $2.5 billion for public health and countering bioterrorism, about $1 billion more than Bush proposed.
The anti-terrorism package is attached to a $318 billion measure financing the Defense Department for fiscal 2002, which began Oct. 1. Most House-Senate differences in that bill have already been resolved.
The $20 billion for anti-terrorism programs is half the $40 billion that Congress approved just days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush controls half the total, but the new legislation must be enacted detailing how the other half will be spent.
All $40 billion was to come from what was once a projected federal surplus for this year. White House and congressional officials now expect a deficit this year, the first since 1997.
Congressional leaders also plan to complete two remaining spending bills this week. One covers health, education and labor programs, the other foreign aid.
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