GOP To Ship Clinton Spending Bill

Thursday, October 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Inviting a pre-election veto, Republicans are ready to send President Clinton a $23.6 billion measure financing energy and water projects that would block administration plans to alter water flows on the Missouri River.

GOP leaders planned to ship the measure Thursday to the White House, where Clinton promised a veto that might have repercussions in the presidential race.

The bill would bar the administration from increasing spring season water flows on the river once every three years, and reducing summer flows annually.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says the move would help two shorebirds and a fish that are nearly extinct, but it has angered farmers and barge operators downstream in Missouri, a tossup state in the presidential contest.

The two sides have begun exploring a possible compromise, said participants who spoke on condition of anonymity. But serious discussions about finding middle ground were not expected until after Clinton vetoes the measure.

The overall bill, loaded with spending for every state, was among 11 spending measures for fiscal 2001 that remained unfinished.

Four days after the new fiscal year began, just two spending bills have become law. But GOP leaders would like to finish the budget work as quickly as they can so legislators can go home for re-election campaigns.

Most federal agencies have been functioning under a stopgap bill that expires Saturday. To avoid a federal shutdown that neither party desires, the Senate approved a second extension Thursday, 95-1, that would keep agencies open through Oct. 14, with only Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., voting ``no.'' The House approved the bill Tuesday, and Clinton is considered certain to sign it.

Meanwhile, the White House and congressional bargainers struck a tentative deal Wednesday on a bill financing housing, veterans, environmental and science programs that would raise spending to near the $109.8 billion level that Clinton had sought, officials familiar with the negotiations said.

The two sides hoped to finalize the agreement Thursday, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Under the agreement, much of the $219 million, or 5 percent, cut in the Environmental Protection Agency's operating budget would be restored, one official said.

And instead of the House plan to eliminate the AmeriCorps national service program, a Clinton favorite, the agency would get more than the $434 million in the Senate version of the bill. Clinton requested $534 million.

Other reductions in Clinton proposals that lawmakers had approved for some public housing programs also would be eased. And instead of spending $1 billion to build new public housing units — a White House-backed effort by Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo. — some of the money would be used for additional federal vouchers to help low-income people pay rent.

Cuts in Clinton's plans for the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration also would be rolled back, the officials said.

The tentative agreement also contains language that could let EPA order the dredging of contaminants from New York's Hudson River.

The provision orders EPA to await a final study from the governmental advisory group, the National Academy of Sciences, on removing the sediments. That study is expected to be complete by Jan. 1. The provision says EPA's plans can't be finalized until it studies the academy's report or next June 30, whichever comes first.

Supporters say the provision would provide scientific information about the plans to remove the pollutants. Opponents say the language is aimed at delaying such action until Clinton leaves office, when George W. Bush, the GOP presidential candidate, might postpone the removal or scuttle the plans.

The government has long been trying to order General Electric Co. to remove polychlorinated biphenyls — or PCBs — that it legally dumped into the Hudson River decades ago. The chemical is a suspected cause of cancer in humans.

The language can also affect 27 other sediment cleanup projects in 15 states from Maine to Alaska.