Friday, September 24, 1999

GOP social spending bill advances

Measure would cut Clinton favorites

The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — A $316 billion social spending bill that Republicans pushed through a House subcommittee Thursday would cut many of President Clinton's education, health and labor priorities, setting up a sure clash between Congress and the White House.

        Though the measure equals or exceeds Mr. Clinton's requests for educating handicapped students, treating AIDS patients and the Job Corps, Democrats denounced it for cuts it would level elsewhere, including the president's plans for hiring teachers, job training for teen-agers, and Head Start.

        Education Secretary Richard Riley said he would urge Mr. Clinton to veto the legislation.

        “By their actions today, it is clear that the Republican majority has failed the American people,” Mr. Riley said.

        The bill's reductions raised questions about whether it would ever be approved by Congress. The likeliest scenario was that it would join a parade of other spending bills that, with or without vetoes, would reach final form only in negotiations between lawmakers and White House officials.

        Republicans said they paid for the measure while honoring their pledge not to use Social Security surpluses.

        “We are committed, all of us, to stop bleeding Social Security reserves,” said Rep. John Porter, R-Ill., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee subcommittee that approved the bill.

        Mr. Porter did not mention the bookkeeping devices Republicans used. This included delaying billions in spending until 2001, declaring $1.4 billion in a decades-old home-heating aid program for the poor to be an “emergency,” and reclaiming $3 billion in unspent welfare funds from the states.

        The measure — the biggest of the 13 spending bills for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 — was approved on a party-line 8-6 vote.

        Most of the measure covers automatically paid benefits such as Medicaid. For every other federal education, health and labor program the GOP would provide $89.4 billion. That is $2.2 billion less than Clinton requested, and $300 million less than is being spent this year.


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