House Speaker Jim Wright is promising "corrective surgery" on a $4.7 billion emergency spending bill that failed when members of his own party broke ranks on the first major budget vote of the year.
Wright and his leadership team will have their first opportunity to recoup next week, when they plan to bring to the floor their plan to implement a separate deficit-reduction pact with President Bush.In the meantime, Wright promised to retool the emergency spending measure that was labeled a "budget buster" and rejected Wednesday by Republicans and Democrats at both ends of the ideological spectrum.
The bill to expand current spending for veterans, anti-drug programs and other popular initiatives was forced back to committee after a leadership amendment to address the budget-busting complaints was defeated 252-172.
The timing of the defeat was bad for Wright, D-Texas, who is trying to show he can still command the House while besieged by an ethics committee probe into his personal finances. Only a day earlier, Wright had confidently predicted passage of the legislation.
However, lawmakers of both parties doubted Wednesday's vote was a direct reflection on Wright's powers.
"I don't think it reflects on leadership problems," said Majority Leader Thomas S. Foley, D-Wash. "This is not a vote of confidence issue."
Foley had proposed in the amendment to trim other programs - including $1 billion from the military - to help offset the cost of the new bill.
But White House budget director Richard Darman sent lawmakers a statement in which he said he would urge Bush to veto the "fiscally irresponsible" measure.
And in a letter to House Minority Leader Bob Michel, R-Ill., Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said the military cuts would force the Pentagon to stop paying re-enlistment bonuses, reduce training hours, eliminate five to 10 construction projects, lay off scientists and engineers and curtail weapons testing.
"This would have very serious consequences for the manning of our forces," he wrote, adding that he, too, would seek a veto.
How Utah voted
Here are Utah and Idaho votes in the 252-172 roll call Wednesday by which the House rejected a Democratic leadership proposal to cut defense, domestic and foreign aid programs by $1.4 billion this year. A "yes" vote is a vote to approve the spending cut amendment.
Democrat - Owens, yes.
Republicans - Hansen, no; Nielson, no.
Democrat - Stallings, yes.
Republican - Craig, no.