WASHINGTON – The fate of one certain appropriations bill on Capitol Hill could turn on something that costs practically nothing. The issue isn't about money, but rather, some behind-the-scenes infighting over a federal property in Georgia.
In what seemed like a nice thing to do, the House of Representatives began considering a bill naming two buildings within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention complex in Atlanta after humanitarian and Nobel Peace prize winner Mother Teresa and for the matriarch of the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks.
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Effusive speeches on the floor of the House suggested wide support for the designations.
"In their own ways each of these women helped to make our country and our world more just and caring," said Rep. Anne Northup, R-Ky.
But what on the surface appeared to be a gracious gesture by House Speaker Dennis Hastert was in reality a back-handed political slap at the United State Senate.
The decision to name buildings after sitting senators isn't uncommon. A quick Google search of Sen. Robert C. Byrd reveals a long list of buildings, structures and roads named after the long-serving West Virginia Democrat.
But in the House, Rule 6 states prohibits the naming of properties after individuals currently in office.
"It shall not be in order to consider a bill ... that provides for the designation or redesignation of a public work in honor of an individual then serving as a member, delegate, resident commissioner, or senator," the rule states.
Hastert says the rule is in place so that politicians do not vote for a spending bill simply because they want their names on a federal building.
"I think just as we're trying to work through here and make sure that issues can be decided on merits of issues and not a quid pro quo," Hastert said.
Harkin was not available for comment on the issue on Thursday, but Specter was.
"I don't know, I didn't take any initiative to have any buildings named, and they can do it or not do it, I'm not concerned about names on buildings, whether it's mine or someone else's," he said.
Parliamentary experts say the decision will be resolved depending on which measure — the House suspension bill or the Senate Labor-HHS bill — is signed into law by President Bush last.