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Congress near deal on $20 billion anti-terror package
Associated Press WriterWASHINGTON (AP) -- House and Senate bargainers neared agreement Monday on a compromise $20 billion anti-terrorism package containing half what President Bush wanted for defense and more than he sought for domestic security and rebuilding from the Sept. 11 attacks.
The overall size of the emerging final deal would represent a victory for Bush, who had threatened a veto if the measure's price tag exceeded $20 billion. Democrats and some Republicans wanted a package worth at least $15 billion more than that.
The mix of dollars in the measure, however, would be a win for Democrats. The tentative pact would cut Bush's defense package in half and give Democrats close to what they wanted for New York and other communities where the hijacked planes hit, and for other programs such as combatting bioterrorists and improving airport security.
A pact would also clear a remaining hurdle to lawmakers completing must-pass spending bills so they can finally adjourn for the year, perhaps by week's end.
According to tentative figures that were still being refined, the package would include $3.5 billion to $4 billion for the military, said two officials familiar with the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity. Bush wanted $7.3 billion for defense, while the Democratic-controlled Senate approved $2 billion.
The exact defense figure would depend on whether funds 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 official said.
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.
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 provide $2.5 billion for public health and countering bioterrorism, about $1 billion more than Bush proposed.
Congressional aides, who worked out the tentative figures, planned to meet again Monday evening. House and Senate members could meet Tuesday to approve the compromise.
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 has control over half the total, but 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 hope to complete the two remaining spending bills this week. One covers health, education and labor programs, the other foreign aid.