BUSH budget delayed in House as two pages are misplaced
Friday, May 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two misplaced pages from the 2002 federal budget lost during the wee hours Friday means a delay until next week for a vote on President Bush's spending proposal.
After a marathon day of resolving 11th-hour disputes, a Republican drive to push a final $1.95 trillion plan through the House was shattered after leaders discovered that two pages from the two-inch thick document were missing.
Nearly all of the House's 432 members _ there are three vacancies _ had remained in the Capitol for one of the biggest votes so far this year. But House leaders abruptly sent them home at about 1:30 a.m. EDT and rescheduled the vote for Tuesday, when the Senate also plans to vote on the budget.
``It's a technical error. It happens,'' House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told a reporter.
While drafting mistakes and other technical glitches are common in Congress, rarely do they have such noteworthy effect on high-profile legislation.
Aides and lawmakers said the missing pages included details of the budget's 11-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut _ the budget's most controversial item. A somewhat larger tax reduction plan has been the crown jewel of Bush's economic agenda.
It seemed possible that the delay could cause problems for GOP leaders, who all day had insisted they wanted the House to approve the spending plan before adjourning for the weekend.
With Republicans holding just a 10-seat margin in the House, they often worry that given time, opposing interest groups will pressure some lawmakers to vote ``no.''
Hastert predicted that would not happen.
``We have a good budget,'' he said. ``We'll take it up Tuesday, and we're going to get it done.''
Democrats who had complained all day that they had not been given a chance to see the fiscal blueprint seemed half furious, half tickled.
``Thank God for the incompetence or the mistake or whatever it was that will allow us to read this budget,'' said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
When Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., blamed the postponed debate on the compromise budget's ``complexity,'' Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., responded, ``We have a problem not of complexity, but of basic physics.''
Earlier in the evening, the House seemed on the verge of delivering a budget triumph to Bush after GOP leaders dropped their plans to exceed Bush's spending proposals.
Because of an internal GOP dispute over which committees would control $6 billion for natural disaster aid, Republicans decided to erase that money entirely.
That brought spending for everything the government does but its automatically paid benefits like Medicare back to $661 billion, about the 4 percent increase Bush had proposed. Pressure from moderate lawmakers had pushed the increase to 5 percent.
Another dispute over the timing of the tax cut was also resolved, apparently solidifying support from centrist Democrats whose votes are needed to push the budget through the evenly divided Senate.
But just when Republicans thought they had finally resolved their budget problems, a copy of the measure missing the two pages became the official document sent to the House desk as debate began.
Aides eventually located the pages, which apparently were misplaced when the House-Senate compromise budget was being photocopied.
But by then, GOP leaders concluded it would have taken hours to go through the procedural steps needed to bring the complete budget back to the House.