The House deleted early yesterday a $30 million authorization from a bill to revamp the U.S. Olympic movement, but supporters of the funds were still working last night to restore the aid as Congress moved toward adjournment.
As the clock approached 1 a.m. yesterday morning, the weary and steadily declining number of members present voted 54-42 on an amendment by Rep. Harold Volkmer (D-Mo.) to strike the funds.
Opponents of the money argued that there was an insufficient breakdown of how it would be spent and that granting the aid would lead to further requests for federal funds for amateur sports.
The U.S. Olympic Committee had requested the one-time grant to help implement its own reorganization and accompanying reforms in the amateur sports community.
Proponents of the bill - including a large number of Democrats who were absent for the voting - were caught off guard by the Volkmer amendment's passage. They had expected the tough fight to come on an amendment from Rep. Thomas N. Kindness (R-Ohio) to restrict the use of money to national training centers and sports medicine programs.
"We made a tactical error in not speaking out more to counter (opponents) arguments," said Rep. Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), who offered a financial watchdog amendment that was accepted.
Before the vote on the money, the House approved the general framework of the bill that spells out the reorganization of the federally chartered USOC. The House version varies slightly from the Senate-passed bill, which included the $30 million.
The Senate was expected to accept the House version last night. Such a move would protect the USOC, which has already incorporated most of the reforms in its own constitution, from possible attempts to quash those reforms. Some individuals in the Amateur Athletic Union, who stand to lose power under the reorganization, have been mounting last-minute attacks on the bill that the AAU had previously endorsed.
Supporters of the $30 million have noted that the successful reorganization of the USOC is tied to the funding since the aid would be used to create national governing bodies in the 35 Olympic and Pan American sports. The USOC has earmarked $18 million for that and another $12 million for training facilities and sports medicine programs.
For that reason proponents of the funds in the Senate, most notably Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Ala.), who chaired the hearings on the bill there, were working last night to have some of the money restored via a rider on a Senate bill that the House also wants to pass.