WASHINGTON -- Some lawmakers of both parties say they are not ready to succumb to President Bush's threat to veto their efforts to boost the $40 billion Congress has already approved for anti-terrorism programs.
At the same time, Senate Democrats are forging ahead with a $67 billion economic stimulus proposal, guaranteeing a partisan confrontation because the package has little Republican support.
Bush issued his veto threat Tuesday at a White House meeting with congressional leaders. He urged them to live within budget and emergency spending limits that were agreed to shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. New needs should be revisited next year, he said.
But Democratic leaders, as well as top Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate Appropriations committees, say the spending deals were brokered before the recent anthrax attacks and the need for broader anti-terror efforts became clear. They say more money is needed for the FBI, Coast Guard, public health, food safety programs, as well as for the costs of waging the war in Afghanistan.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said that if Bush opposes congressional efforts to increase anti-terrorism programs, "That's when Armageddon will come."
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla., said he was unsure there would be enough votes to produce a bill within the limits Bush wants.
"It's going to be very difficult for a member to vote against a bill that gives the FBI the tools they think they need," Young told reporters.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., back the president.
"He's concerned about spending just spiraling completely out of control," Lott told reporters. "And I share that concern."
The White House worries that any additional spending approved now will be built upon in coming years, possibly forcing Bush to confront an endless stream of budget deficits just as he prepares for re-election in 2004.
As a result of Bush's threat, many GOP lawmakers will have to choose between supporting more money for popular anti-terrorism efforts and backing a president of their own party.
Bush put himself in an awkward position as well. With the extra money likely to end up in either a defense spending bill or an economic stimulus measure, he may have to veto legislation that otherwise has strong bipartisan support to follow through on his promise.
Young said he believes about $2 billion more is needed for domestic anti-terror programs, plus billions more for defense and to help New York recover from the destruction of the World Trade Center.
Byrd has proposed adding $20 billion aimed at securing highways, airports, water systems, food safety and buttressing law enforcement and other programs.
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is dropping any effort to negotiate an economic stimulus deal with the GOP.
Instead, he will present his panel with a measure containing fewer business tax breaks than the House and Bush want as well as more aid for the unemployed, including a temporary health insurance subsidy.
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