Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senators Predict Rapid Approval of Flood Aid Bill the House Quibbled, but Eventually Passed the $4.7 Billion Measure by a Wide Margin

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Senators Predict Rapid Approval of Flood Aid Bill the House Quibbled, but Eventually Passed the $4.7 Billion Measure by a Wide Margin

Article excerpt

WITH $4.7 BILLION in Midwestern flood aid hanging in the balance, Republicans and Democrats alike predict that the Senate will move more quickly and quietly than did the House to pass the emergency package this week.

"I think it will pass in short order and will be non-controversial," predicted Sen. John C. Danforth, R-Mo., as the Senate prepared to take up the emergency aid package on Monday or Tuesday. "There's just enormous support for it."

Last week, the House also had enormous support, eventually, for a $2.98 billion emergency aid package. It passed 400 to 27.

But for five days, 45 fiscally conservative Democrats and a solid bloc of 170 Republicans derailed the package. The coalition took advantage of a parliamentary procedure called the "rule," which lays out the terms of debate and possible amendments.

In a rare event, the coalition defeated the rule in its first time up after launching a fierce argument over whether the flood aid should come from cuts in other programs rather than deficit spending. They also challenged an unrelated jobs program amended to the flood measure.

That forced the Democratic House leadership to regroup, corral defecting Democrats and return to the floor a second time to get the aid package passed.

The Senate has no rule procedure for derailing the package. If there's any delay, it would come through ordinary, time-consuming debate on amendments offered from the floor. Sens. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, for example, said they plan to offer several that would expand aid to farmers and lighten the burden on state and local governments.

The pay-as-you-go approach also has its advocates in the Senate, including Bob Kerrey, D-Nebraska, and Dave Durenberger, a Republican from Minnesota.

"I at least want to raise the issue and discuss it," said Kerrey, a member of the Appropriations Committee, after the committee agreed Friday to send the Senate's larger $4.7 billion package to the floor for a vote.

Durenberger is ready to offer an amendment that would call for holding back part of next year's budget to pay for the flood package. But by late in the week, he had no co-sponsors to guarantee him a hearing or to signal widespread support. "We're all alone," admitted a spokesman for Durenberger.

In another hint that pay-as-you-go is likely to be less of a focus in the Senate, Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kansas, has shown little appetite for that particular fight. On CNN's Newsmaker Sunday program last week, Dole said he considers the flood an emergency that requires no offsetting cuts in other spending to pay for it.

The Missouri and Illinois senators - Danforth and Bond and Democrats Paul Simon and Carol Moseley-Braun - also have rejected pay-as-you-go.

"There's no need to hold this up while we enact another budget bill," said Bond. …

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