Senate Ready to OK Spending Bills


Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is poised to ship President Clinton a batch of spending bills worth more than $150 billion, but battles over immigration and other issues mean lawmakers won't finish overdue budget work until at least next week.

The Senate planned to vote Thursday on two packages that carried two compromise spending bills apiece. The bills bore several victories for Clinton — and millions of dollars in home-district, campaign-season projects for lawmakers.

One package combines a $107 billion measure financing veterans, housing, environment and science programs with a $23.6 billion energy-water bill. The other contains the $30.3 billion Treasury Department bill, a $2.5 billion measure financing Congress' own operations and another repealing the 3 percent federal tax on telephone usage.

The bills have more spending than Congress initially wanted for Clinton priorities like fuel efficiency research, enforcement of anti-pollution laws, the Internal Revenue Service and federal vouchers used by some poor people to pay rent.

They also shower money on congressional districts from coast to coast, from $4 million to improve the port of Oakland, Calif., to $2.2 million for maintenance work in Wells Harbor, Maine.

The Treasury measure also opens the door for members of Congress to get a $3,800 pay raise in January to $145,100.

A logjam on the bills was broken Wednesday after Republicans conceded defeat in a dispute over the Missouri River that has prompted a presidential veto and become a Midwestern issue in the presidential race.

``Unfortunately, the Senate does not have the votes to override this veto,'' said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.

Clinton vetoed an initial version of the energy-water measure because it contained GOP language blocking the administration from advancing its plan to increase spring water flows on the Missouri. His plan was designed to help three endangered species and the upstream recreation industry, but it was opposed by downstream farmers, barge operators and lawmakers from both parties who said flooding might result.

The House voted 315-98 Wednesday to overturn the veto, surpassing the two-thirds majority of lawmakers voting needed. But with nearly all Senate Democrats solidly behind Clinton, Lott decided against an override effort in his chamber.

Even so, of the 13 annual spending bills for fiscal 2001, which began Oct. 1, only the third became law on Wednesday. Clinton signed an $18.8 billion Interior Department bill that creates a new six-year, $12 billion land conservation program. A fourth, covering transportation programs, awaits his signature.

Of the remaining bills, three were the furthest from completion. These bills — covering six Cabinet departments plus foreign aid — featured disputes over federal control of school aid, a Democratic effort to ease restrictions on Central American immigration, the government's lawsuit against the tobacco industry and U.S. policy on overseas abortions.

Acknowledging that Congress would not complete its work this week, leaders prepared a stopgap bill to keep agencies functioning through Oct. 20. The second such extension expires Saturday.

In other action Wednesday,

—The House voted 340-75 to approve a $78 billion agriculture bill that lifts the embargo on food sales to Cuba, provides aid to drought-stricken farmers, and allows the import of U.S.-made drugs that are sold cheaper in other countries. Senate approval seemed likely next week, and Clinton's signature is expected.

—Congress sent Clinton a bill aimed at strengthening auto safety. The measure includes prison terms for business executives who withhold information about safety defects from federal regulators and requires government testing of vehicles for their rollover potential.

—The House passed a $310 billion defense authorization bill that includes health and prescription drug benefits for veterans and a 3.7 percent pay increase for active-duty members of the military. It would provide health benefits and $150,000 payments to thousands of Cold War-era workers made sick by their jobs at nuclear weapons plants or uranium mines. A Senate vote is pending.

—The Senate sent Clinton a crime package that renews the Violence Against Women Act and increases in penalties against international sex trade traffickers. The House approved it Friday. Clinton has indicated he would sign it.

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On the Net:

House Appropriations Committee: http://www.house.gov/appropriations