Senate Presses Ahead on Omnibus Spending Bill, but Tuesday Vote Unlikely

Posted January 21, 2003 at 3:49pm

While the House enjoys the Martin Luther King Jr. recess, the Senate continues to work on an omnibus appropriations package Tuesday but is not expected to finish today.

As the Senate debated but did not vote on several amendments, including competing ways to add $1.5 billion for special education, Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) scheduled two unrelated votes for later in the day.

One vote is slated for 5:15 p.m. on a bill to bolster a missing children’s alert system, known as the AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert, named for Amber Hagerman, who was 9 years old when she was kidnapped and murdered in Arlington, Texas.

A vote to confirm Tom Ridge as secretary of Homeland Security is also possible.

All potential amendments to the $390 billion omnibus package, which incorporates the 11 remaining fiscal 2003 appropriations bills, are due by 6 p.m., after which the Senate may begin voting on the measures already debated.

Democrats, who already failed to get more money for homeland security and education, want to break the tight cap imposed by President Bush and bolster spending for a host of domestic programs, including one that helps low-income citizens with their heating bills. They also want drought assistance for farmers.

They have also tried unsuccessfully to restore an across-the-board cut Republicans added last week to make room for several Bush priorities, including election reform, drought relief and Medicare adjustments.