Supplemental spending bill advances

The House and Senate appropriations committees on April 1 approved a $77.9 billion supplemental bill for fiscal 2003 earmarked for war in Iraq and peace at home, but Democrats said it is not nearly enough to protect the homeland.

The legislation, likely to go to the full House and Senate later this week, provides $4.2 billion for homeland security, including $3.5 billion for the new Homeland Security Department (DHS) and $700 million for homeland security-related activities outside DHS.

It would provide $2.2 billion for grants to police officers and firefighters, $200 million more than the president's request, and it includes $700 million to deal with security requirements in high-threat, high-density urban areas with critical infrastructure.

Democratic lawmakers put together their own package, which calls for $4.3 billion just for first responders and high-threat areas such as New York City. They are seeking a total of about $9 billion for homeland security.

"We know that the [Bush] administration has a plan to take money from existing programs to cover these costs. But it's not enough to shuffle money around. We need to make the pie bigger," said Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

DHS also was working behind the scenes to get more money, especially for a new wireless priority service, according to sources.

Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said many agencies were seeking more money for bare coffers. He failed to persuade other panel members to add $2.5 billion for tightened security at dams, more aid to state and local emergency agencies, and other domestic safety efforts.

"We've had lots of contacts from lots of agencies, not officially but over the transom, including DHS. Everybody wants more money," Obey said.

Highlights of the House version of the supplemental:

* $165 million for bioterrorism and public health activities, including $16 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for research on severe acute respiratory syndrome.

* $498 million for border and port security, including $230 million for the Coast Guard's targeted seaport security functions and port vulnerability assessments.

* $193 million for nonintrusive inspection technology for cargo and portal radiation monitors.

* $235 million for airport modifications to install checked baggage explosive detection systems.

* $400 million for counterterror activities at the FBI.

Although it is on a fast track, the legislation must still pass the full House and Senate and be sent to negotiators to work out differences between the two bills.


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