The House Committee on Appropriations announced that Congress is postponing action on the $94.5 billion supplemental appropriations bill for defense and hurricane relief until after the Memorial Day recess, May 29 - June 5. The bill (H.R. 4939) includes funding for highway and rail projects.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) named conferences to the committee trying to resolve differences over the emergency spending package with their Senate counterparts. So far, House and Senate conferees were able to agree on the spending amount.
In early May, the Senate passed a $109 billion emergency supplemental and the House agreed earlier this year to a $91.9 billion package. President Bush requested $92.2 billion and threatened to veto anything over that amount with exception for emergency money to respond to an avian flu outbreak.
House Republican conferees appointed last week include Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis of California and Reps. C. W. Bill Young of Florida, Ralph Regula of Ohio, Harold Rogers of Kentucky, Frank Wolf of Virginia, Jim Kolbe of Arizona, James Walsh of New York, Charles Taylor of North Carolina, David Hobson of Ohio, Henry Bonilla of Texas and Joe Knollenberg of Michigan. Democratic House conferees include Ranking Minority Member David Obey of Wisconsin, John Murtha of Pennsylvania, Martin Olav Sabo of Minnesota, Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, John Olver of Massachusetts, Peter Visclosky of Indiana, Nita Lowey of New York and Chet Edwards of Texas.
In addition to providing $28.9 billion for hurricane relief and $70.9 billion for fighting terrorism including $65.7 billion for the Defense Department, the Senate approved $1.5 billion for transportation assistance. Of that figure, $700 million is slated for relocating CSX rail lines along the hurricane-damaged Mississippi Coast.
The remaining supplemental funding for transportation includes $200 million for grants to states and local governments affected by Hurricane Katrina for public transportation equipment, facilities and operations assistance. Matching requirements for the grants would be waived.
Funding for emergency relief of highway backlog around the country is pegged at $594 million, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee.