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Negotiators near pact on anti-terrorism package
WASHINGTON -- 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 today. 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.
Tilted toward Democrats
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.