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Clinton signs stopgap spending

Updated:
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Clinton today signed a resolution to
keep federal agencies financed for the next three weeks, "not
because I wanted to but because it was the only way to prevent
another government shutdown."

He accused the Republican Congress of resorting to "gimmicks
and gamesmanship" instead of meeting the Oct. 1 deadline for
passage of the appropriations bills that finance the government.

The resolution extends funding until Oct. 21.

Clinton also denounced a House GOP plan to delay payments under
a program for lower-income working Americans, the earned-income tax
credit, in order to save $8.7 billion in fiscal 2000, pushing the
cost of the credit into the following budget year.

"I will not sign a bill that turns its back on these
hard-working families," he said.

With fiscal 2000 tolling at midnight, Senate and House
committees tackled different versions of a massive social spending
bill, despite veto threats from the White House.

At the start of business on the last day of the old budget year,
Congress had completed only five of the 13 annual appropriations
bills for the 2000 fiscal year, including one for the District of
Columbia that Clinton already has vetoed.

Just two of the bills have been signed into law, financing the
Treasury Department and military construction projects.

For now, neither side was backing down.

The White House wanted higher spending for the environment,
housing and other programs, while Republicans were cutting some
Clinton initiatives and shifting dollars into their own priorities,
such as programs that give states more leeway in apportioning the
money.

"We are prepared to veto bills that have the wrong
priorities," White House chief of staff John Podesta warned during
a Wednesday visit to the Capitol.

The labor, health and education spending bill is the biggest of
all, totaling about $320 billion.

The House version pared Clinton proposals for hiring teachers,
expanding Head Start and some health programs for the poor. And
though the Senate bill eased many of the House reductions, the
White House was threatening to veto either one -- chiefly because
they provided less than he wants for hiring thousands of new
teachers next year.

Republicans charged that the drive for new teachers was a
political ploy aimed at playing to teachers' unions and others.

"This has been polled," said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. "That's
why this has been put forward."

On Wednesday, the Senate voted by a near party-line 53-45 for a
GOP plan providing $1.2 billion that states could use for hiring
teachers, buying school equipment or other educational purposes --
contingent on passage of a separate bill creating the new programs.
Clinton proposed $1.4 billion, including money to continue paying
the first 29,000 teachers hired last year and to hire 8,000 more,
but it was rejected by a party-line 54-44.

Behind the scenes, Republican leaders seemed to be on the verge
of resolving two internal GOP disputes that have stalled two major
bills.

A long standoff seemed to be over on the Air Force's proposed
purchase of its first six F-22 stealth fighters. In a victory for
House foes of the warplane, leaders of the two chambers were ready
to provide $1 billion to purchase up to six test models, but delay
production of the final version for at least a year, said officials
speaking on condition of anonymity.

And despite lingering opposition, leaders were also near
agreement on a $70 billion agriculture bill that would include
close to $9 billion in emergency aid for farmers hurt by low crop
prices. It would omit controversial provisions that would have
opened food and medicine sales to Cuba and blocked a new federal
milk-pricing system.

And House-Senate bargainers reached agreement Wednesday on a $50
billion measure for transportation programs, including increased
spending for highways, mass transit and aviation.

In a win for the automobile industry, the measure would prevent
the government from increasing fuel efficiency standards,
continuing a prohibition Congress has imposed for five years.

It would also forbid states from selling information about
drivers without their consent, though Senate language was dropped
that would have cut highway funds to states that ignore the ban.

But in the House, things were moving slowly as Republicans
lacked the votes even to try to push a $12.6 billion foreign aid
bill through the chamber.

Republicans reiterated their pledge to not use any Social
Security surpluses to pay for spending bills, and launched
television commercials accusing Democrats of planning to do so. But
Clinton administration officials said Republicans were already
breaking their own pledge.

New cost estimates provided Congress by the Congressional Budget
Office showed that current GOP spending plans would eat into Social
Security surpluses by about $18 billion next year, according to
documents obtained by The Associated Press. The finding was similar
to a projection CBO provided lawmakers last month.


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