Senate passes remaining appropriations bills

Senate passes remaining appropriations bills

After a three-month delay, the Senate last night passed an omnibus appropriations bill to fund civilian agencies for fiscal 2003, which began Oct. 1. The bill, S Amendment 1, passed 69 to 29.

Among a flurry of amendments this week, one that didn't pass would have restricted the administration's ability to set goals for private-sector competition for federal jobs. One that did pass tightens congressional oversight of the Defense Department's Total Information Awareness program.

The $390 billion omnibus bill goes immediately to conference to iron out programmatic differences with the House. The White House budget had capped spending at $390 billion, and the Senate's difficulty keeping that cap caused the delay. Agencies have been working under eight continuing resolutions and, with the passage of the bill, now a ninth. The president signed the Defense and military construction appropriations in October.

The Senate had planned to finish the spending bill and get it out of conference before the president's State of the Union address next Tuesday. That now seems unlikely because of numerous differences between Senate and House versions.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) reintroduced an amendment to restrict the administration's ability to set goals for competitive sourcing. It was defeated 50 to 47. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) last year tried a similar provision, which was defeated 50 to 49.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sponsored the provision to increase oversight of the Total Information Awareness program, which calls for data mining technologies to identify potentially threatening activities in everyday transactions [see story at www.gcn.com/vol1_no1/regulation/20894-1.html]. Their amendment, which passed by voice vote, requires the attorney general, the secretary of Defense and the CIA director to detail such plans to Congress within 60 days of the bill's passage, before any funds can be allocated.

The amendment also requires the secretary of Defense to notify Congress if DOD wants to deploy any such technology and specifically describe each element. Then Congress must pass new legislation authorizing the deployment or implementation of the technology. The provision allows for a waiver if the president certifies that stopping R&D would endanger national security.

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