WASHINGTON – The Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee is presenting a tentative anti-terrorism package that is billions costlier than the $29.4 billion version a House panel approved, Senate aides said Thursday.
The pricey proposal, drafted by West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, consists of programs that will add up to more than $32 billion, one aide said, with virtually all the extra money aimed at domestic security. The package also exceeds the $27.1 billion that President Bush requested from Congress in March, according to aides speaking on condition of anonymity.
The expense is certain to draw attacks from congressional conservatives who want to limit the added costs to Bush's emergency spending request.
Even moderate Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the Appropriations Committee's top Republican, who normally crafts spending bills arm-in-arm with Byrd, has told him he wants the package no bigger than the House version.
However, the aides said Byrd may alter his draft as he consults with Republicans in hopes of gaining their support.
Byrd's measure takes a shot at Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge by making his position one that would require Senate confirmation. Byrd has clashed with the White House over Ridge's refusal to formally testify before congressional committees, which the administration explains by saying Ridge is an adviser to Bush, not a nominee who needs Senate approval.
Byrd's measure would provide $200 million in extra aid for Israel and $50 million for the Palestinians, which the House provided, though with different terms. It would also provide $100 million to battle AIDS and other deadly diseases abroad, half the House proposal.
Byrd's committee could vote on the plan as early as next week.
On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee used a voice vote to approve its version of the bill after handing Bush a victory in the fight over his decision to withhold money provided last year for overseas family planning efforts.
The House panel gave Bush another win as well, derailing language that would have spared the planned Crusader artillery system from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's budget ax.
Worried their amendment might fail, supporters of the $11 billion weapon settled for a nonbinding provision telling Rumsfeld to "take no action that would precipitously stop work" on the Crusader until Congress has voted on the program's fate. That, in effect, postpones the fight until lawmakers write the 2003 Pentagon spending bill in a few months.
The full House should vote next week on the overall counterterror package, which is the government's latest response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The bill includes $15.8 billion for the Defense Department; $5.8 billion for domestic security, mostly for aviation and airports; and $5.5 billion to help New York recover from the Sept. 11 attacks.
It provides money for Pell grants for low-income students, overhaul of election systems, veterans benefits and foreign aid, including the funds for Israel and the Palestinians.
By a near party-line 32-30 vote, the appropriations panel approved a provision giving Bush until July 31 to decide whether to spend any of the $34 million for overseas family planning that lawmakers approved and Bush signed into law last December.
Bush has refused to release the money to the U.N. Population Fund, which runs family planning programs in 140 countries. In withholding the money, the administration cited conservatives' accusations that the U.N. agency's activities in China abet forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations.
U.N. officials and their supporters deny the charge, and the U.N. program uses no U.S. funds in China. The Bush administration has sent a commission to China to search for evidence of forced family planning and U.N. links to it, and its report is expected soon after it returns in two weeks.
Wednesday's vote reversed a 32-31 tally by the committee last week approving language requiring Bush to release the $34 million by July 10 unless U.N. complicity in coerced abortions and sterilizations was found.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.