U.S. House to consider US$6.5 billion spending bill


WASHINGTON, Reuters

The House Appropriations Committee unveiled on Tuesday a US$6.5 billion supplemental spending package for fiscal 2001 to pay for shortfalls in U.S. military operations and national disaster relief.

The committee will vote on Thursday on the proposal sent to Congress by President George W. Bush earlier this month. Bush has asked for quick action on the package, which he wants on his desk by early July.

The US$5.5 billion for the Pentagon, which will be added to the US$296 billion U.S. defense budget for fiscal 2001, boosts benefits, housing and military readiness and training.

It provides US$1.65 billion to avoid disruptions in the military health care program, US$200 million above Bush’s request, and US$734 million to help the Pentagon meet rising energy costs.

The package also includes US$44 million for repairs to the U.S. destroyer Cole, shattered by a bomb in Yemen’s Aden harbor last October, and US$36 million to recover the bodies of nine Japanese civilians who were killed when a U.S. submarine rammed a Japanese fishing boat off Hawaii in February.

While the total for the military does not match the US$7 billion sought by the armed services, officials said it would allow a stretched military budget to meet increased payrolls and conduct full training and operations through the end of the fiscal year in September.

The bill includes US$389 million for emergency disaster assistance as a result of recent floods and natural disasters, and US$92 million for increased Coast Guard costs. It doubles to US$300 million the president’s request for the Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program.

The bill classifies US$473 million as emergency spending.

The Pentagon is expected to increase and resubmit to Congress sometime this summer the US$310 billion request for the fiscal 2002 defense budget proposed earlier this year.