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House Passes Bill Without Boosting Aid to N.Y.

Politics: State officials have accused the Bush administration of breaking a promise of $20 billion. Congress members say more money will follow.


WASHINGTON — A last-ditch effort by Democrats and a few Republicans to quicken the flow of disaster aid to New York fizzled Wednesday as the House approved a major defense and anti-terror spending bill.

Many New Yorkers in Congress have complained that the Bush administration was shifting the terms of a promise to provide about $20 billion to their state after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

A law enacted days after airliners flown by hijackers destroyed the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan and damaged the Pentagon in Virginia required at least half of a new $40-billion emergency fund to be earmarked for disaster recovery. The lion's share of that was to have gone to New York to relieve the devastation caused by the collapse of the trade center's twin towers.

But the amount of immediate aid heading to New York now stands at only $11 billion. The rest of the $40 billion appears to be allotted for defense, law enforcement and other priorities.

The administration said more money will be made available to New York as needs emerge in coming years. Democrats counter that the state needs a stronger federal commitment now.

On Wednesday, the Republican-led House squelched a Democratic effort to offer an amendment to the defense appropriation bill that would have raised the immediate aid to New York and Virginia by about $10.4 billion. New York would have received most of the increase.

The key vote to cut off Democratic amendments--which also included proposals to raise spending for the military and domestic security--passed, 216 to 211. The vote helped the House avoid a potential showdown with the White House because President Bush threatened to veto any spending bill that contained more emergency money than the $40 billion already approved.

Four Republicans supported the Democratic proposal--Reps. John E. Sweeney and Sue W. Kelly of New York, Joel Hefley of Colorado and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania. The lone Democrat to side with the Republican majority was Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. of Ohio.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose district encompasses the trade center site, charged that the House was breaking "a solemn pledge" for rapid relief to a region where thousands of jobs have been lost and streets, subways and utilities are in ruins.

Although administration allies counsel New Yorkers to be patient, Nadler said: "These funds are desperately needed now, not in six months or a year or two."

But Rep. James T. Walsh (R-N.Y.), who has pushed the White House to raise New York funding, told the House he believes Bush will live up to his word to provide more money as needed. "Most of us agree $20 billion [for New York] is a floor, not a ceiling."

The narrow procedural victory for House Republican leaders paved the way for easy passage of the overall spending bill. The bill was approved, 406 to 20, late Wednesday.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would appropriate $317.5 billion for defense programs in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1--up $19 billion from the previous year. It also provides a required second stamp of congressional approval to a portion of the emergency counter-terrorism fund created in September.

In the Senate, the bill is expected to be the subject of intense negotiations as Congress prepares to finish its work for the year.

The defense portion of the bill, largely drafted before the terrorist attacks, funds a 4.6% military pay raise, effective Jan. 1, and procurement of sophisticated weaponry that includes tactical fighters, a naval submarine and destroyers and other hardware and munitions. Additional military spending is likely to be proposed early next year as the war on terrorism continues.

The counter-terror section of the bill includes an additional $7.3 billion for the Pentagon, $1.5 billion for the Justice Department and nearly $2 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services.

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