Bush warns Senate to OK 'responsible' anti-terrorism bill

Saturday, May 25, 2002

WASHINGTON -- President Bush flashed a warning to the Senate on Friday to contain the costs of its $31 billion anti-terrorism bill, a sign that a partisan struggle still lies ahead for a measure both parties say they support.

The Senate's Democratic leaders criticized Republicans for delaying the bill, which they argued bears money needed to combat terrorists at home and overseas.

In a flip-flop of election-year politics, during the House's bitter debate of its version of the bill this week, Democrats called it fiscally irresponsible and Republicans said its funds were needed for the fight against terror.

Hours after a weary House used a 3 a.m. vote to approve its $29 billion counter-terrorism measure on Friday, Bush congratulated that chamber and served notice to the Senate. Democratic leaders plan Senate debate on the bill after legislators return from their Memorial Day recess early next month.

"The House has shown that a responsible budget can be enacted, and the Senate should follow suit," Bush said in a written statement issued as he visited Russia.

"I expect the Senate to only spend on what is necessary to fight the war and for our immediate emergency needs," he said. "With our nation now at war, now is not the time for unnecessary spending on lower priority items."

Hint of veto

Bush proposed his own $27.1 billion measure in March, but ended up endorsing the more expensive bill that majority Republicans pushed through the House by a 280-138 vote.

Though he did not use the word "veto," Bush's hint of possible confrontation and his attempt to cast Senate Democrats as big spenders seemed clear.

Democrats, in turn, chided Republicans who had blocked the Senate from debating the bill on Thursday. Many GOP lawmakers say the Senate plan is too big, but Democrats cited the threats of terror attacks that cascade from administration officials almost daily.

"The danger is real," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., chief author of the package, said in a statement. "And yet some Republican senators would rather delay than act. ... Shameful."

All three versions would spend slightly more than half their totals for the Pentagon and intelligence programs. They would use the rest for law enforcement and other domestic security efforts, rebuilding New York from the destruction of Sept. 11 and aiding some U.S. allies.

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