CHN: Senate Adds $6 Billion in Drought Assistance to Interior Bill
Drought Aid Would Not Affect Food and Nutrition Spending in Farm Bill
On Tuesday, September 10, the Senate voted 79-16 to attach a $6 billion emergency drought package to the $19.3 billion fiscal year 2003 Interior bill (HR 5093). Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) sponsored the measure, which was supported by forty-eight Democrats and thirty-one Republicans. Under the amendment, the $6 billion assistance would not count against 2003 farm bill spending, a bill that the administration claims has more than enough funds for current emergency drought needs. Anti-poverty advocates worry that taking the drought money out of the farm bill would encroach upon funds needed for important food and nutrition programs.
Farm groups rallied on September 9 on Capitol Hill in support of the drought package, which opponents call “fiscally imprudent.” The House-passed Interior bill does not include emergency drought assistance for farmers and ranchers, and the White House opposes the creation of a new drought aid entitlement program. Some amendment supporters contend that the measure was a statement to the administration in support of emergency aid to farmers and ranchers, not a request for all of the proposed $6 billion. It is likely that the amendment will be a point of debate when the House and Senate conference on Interior appropriations.