The Democratic-led Senate has rejected a plan by Democratic leaders to approve more anti-terrorism funding for this year than President Bush had sought. The action came on a procedural vote during consideration of a $318 billion defense spending bill.
In the 50-50 vote roughly along party lines, Republicans got nine votes more than the 41 needed to scuttle the extra $15 billion in emergency funding. Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was the only Democrat to side with Republicans.
Half of the $15 billion was to go to help New York and other targets of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The money was in addition to the $20 billion in anti-terrorism funding supported by Mr. Bush.
Appropriations Committee Chairman Senator Robert Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, was chief sponsor of the $15 billion package. He responded angrily at defeat of his plan. "With this point of order we break our promise to the people to protect them," the senator said. "We break the promise to New York to help them with this tragedy. We continue the decades of partisan political squabbling that so often occupy us in this self-consumed, cynical, myopic town."
President Bush had threatened to veto the entire defense bill if the anti-terror package exceeded $20 billion. He has said he will seek more money next year once needs are better assessed.
The dispute over the emergency funding is part of a broader political battle in which Democrats are seeking to portray themselves as champions of homeland defense. They are seeking to confront Republicans with the difficulty of choosing between supporting their president and voting against popular programs to fight terrorism.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, a Republican from Mississippi, said Democrats are on the wrong track. "It was obvious this was just a political scheme. This was to try to get you to cast tough votes in order to get the defense bill," Senator Lott said. "That was the wrong thing to do. I think the strategy backfired on the Democrats."
Democratic leaders predict a $20 billion emergency response package will pass, but with some funds shifted from the military to New York's recovery effort and homeland defense.
The Republican-led House approved a $20 billion anti-terrorism package last week when they passed the defense spending bill.