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Copyright 1999 The National Journal, Inc.  
The National Journal

 View Related Topics 

October 9, 1999

SECTION: CONGRESS; Pg. 2892; Vol. 31, No. 41

LENGTH: 1487 words

HEADLINE: Pivotal Events in Congress, October 4-7

BYLINE: Jill Graham and Charlie Mitchell


House Passes Bipartisan Health Care Bill

     After rejecting three GOP alternatives, the House on Oct.
7 passed, 275-151--with 68 Republicans voting in favor--the
bipartisan patients' rights proposal sponsored by Reps. Charlie
Norwood, R-Ga., and John D. Dingell, D-Mich. The vote came after
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., tried, but failed, to salvage
control at the 11th hour by backing a limited right for patients
to sue their health-insurance carriers. President Clinton had
raised the ante by challenging lawmakers to show that they are
not part of a ''lame-duck Congress.'' The bipartisan bill was
merged with a separate measure--passed by the House a day earlier
and opposed by most Democrats--that would expand various health-
related tax incentives. In July, the Senate approved a Republican
managed-care reform bill that is far narrower than the House
measure. Lawmakers face procedural and policy obstacles in
resolving differences between the two chambers, and in producing
a bill that can win Clinton's approval. Senate Minority Leader
Thomas A. Daschle, D-S.D., has said he wants a Senate vote on the
House-passed bill before a conference committee begins--probably
next year. -- Richard E. Cohen/National Journal
How Limited Is Limited Tax Relief?      Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth Jr., R-
Del., on Oct. 5 unveiled a $ 75 billion, 10-year bill to renew
expired tax credits and provide relief from the Individual
Alternative Minimum Tax. The measure would be financed almost
entirely from on-budget surplus money projected over the next
decade. Many Finance Committee Republicans voiced opposition to
the measure's scope; they worry that anything but a very modest
bill would become a magnet for potential killer amendments.
Democrats this week put together a rival $ 35 billion tax measure,
which they said would not tap into the surplus. White House Press
Secretary Joe Lockhart, meanwhile, on Oct. 7 suggested tacking on
to the Roth bill some of President Clinton's priorities, such as
tax incentives for building and renovating schools. In the House,
floor action on a $ 23 billion, five-year package of tax breaks
depends largely on progress on the spending bills.--Stephen
Enduring Across-the-Board Pain

     Republican leaders, searching for a way to finish the
spending bills without dipping into the Social Security surplus,
this week floated the idea of an across-the-board cut. Democrats
hated the proposal, but the GOP reaction was mixed. On Oct. 6,
Senate Republicans did push through a nonbinding resolution
advocating an across-the-board cut. Still, some Republicans
already are piping up that politically sensitive programs would
have to be exempt. Among those worried: James T. Walsh of New
York, the chairman of the House VA-HUD Appropriations
Subcommittee, who warned that it would be risky to slash
veterans' health care programs. Congress made halting progress
this week on the remainder of the 13 appropriations bills. Two
bills--Foreign Operations and Transportation--won final approval,
but the Clinton Administration has raised objections to both of
them. Thus far, President Clinton has signed four of the bills
and vetoed one. The conference report on the Agriculture funding
measure is hung up in the Senate, where northeastern Senators are
unhappy over disaster relief and dairy issues. House-Senate
negotiators completed the Defense appropriations conference
report, and haggled over the Veteran Affairs-Housing and Urban
Development bill. But the massive Labor, Health and Human
Services, and Education bill is tied up in the House.--David
Baumann/National Journal
Work Stoppage on House Labor-HHS Bill

     House Republican leaders canceled floor debate this week
on the traditionally most contentious of the appropriations
bills, the one covering the Labor, Health and Human Services, and
Education departments. The move followed a fusillade of criticism
that escalated on Sept. 30 over a scheme, championed by House
Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to save $ 8.7 billion. DeLay's
plan called for spreading out payments under the Earned Income
Tax Credit, instead of giving the working poor a lump sum when
they file their tax returns. President Clinton and Democratic
lawmakers fired shots at the DeLay proposal, but there was also
one surprise sniper: the Republicans' own leading presidential
aspirant, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, whose standards for
''compassionate conservatism'' apparently were unmet.   --Bill
Ghent/National Journal News Service
FAA Measure Is Airborne at Last

     The Senate on Oct. 5 passed long-stalled legislation to
reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration and the Airport
Improvement Program. The bill, sponsored by Senate Commerce
Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., had been held up most of
the year due to opposition to his plan to add more takeoffs and
landings at four airports: O'Hare in Chicago, Kennedy and La
Guardia in New York City, and Reagan National in Washington. But
with the new fiscal year under way, Senate leaders agreed to
limit debate on the bill in order to move it quickly. That
decision headed off any filibuster by Sen. Charles S. Robb, D-
Va., who opposes adding flights at Reagan National and who faces
a tough re-election battle, and freshman Sen. Peter G.
Fitzgerald, R-Ill., who made stopping more flights at O'Hare part
of his 1998 campaign. The House-Senate conference committee will
start immediately. The next fight: House Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster, R-Pa., wants to
spend $ 14 billion more on infrastructure over four years than
called for in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act.     --Matthew
Banging the Gavel on Judicial Nominees

     The Senate's party-line rejection on Oct. 5 of the
nomination of Ronnie L. White to a federal judgeship in Missouri
portends more acrimony--and probably inaction--on other judicial
nominees by the 106th Congress. Democrats charged that White, an
African-American, was voted down because of his race. Sen.
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wondered whether the vote signaled a return
to a ''color test on nominations,'' although Senate Majority Whip
Don Nickles, R-Okla., said that such charges ''offended'' him.
White wasn't confirmed, Nickles said, because many Missouri law
enforcement officials opposed him, as did the state's Senators,
Republicans John Ashcroft and Christopher S. Bond. Ashcroft, who
faces a tough re-election battle, is sure to highlight his hard-
line stance against ''activist'' judges in his campaign. --Kirk
Victor/National Journal
Reality Check on Medicare Reform

     The White House--the last bastion of optimism that
comprehensive Medicare reform was possible this year--appears to
be coming to grips with political reality. At a meeting at the
White House on Oct. 5, Senate Finance Committee Chairman William
V. Roth Jr., R-Del., and ranking member Daniel Patrick Moynihan,
D-N.Y., emphasized to President Clinton that there is only enough
time remaining on the congressional calendar to reverse some of
the more-bruising changes to Medicare made under the 1997
Balanced Budget Act, which cut payments to teaching hospitals and
other service providers. Clinton suggested that at least part of
his Medicare reform plan--cost-saving modernizations to the
Medicare fee-for-service program--be added to pay for the Budget
Act modifications. The rest of his Medicare proposal, including a
prescription drug benefit and adding more competition to the
Medicare managed-care option, is in all likelihood on the shelf
until next year.--Keith Koffler/CongressDaily
The Week Ahead
The outlook for legislative activity during the week of Oct. 11:

     - A vote is possible on Oct. 12 or 13 on the
Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty, but ongoing negotiations could
cause a delay. Debate is also planned on campaign finance reform.

     - Action is expected on the Labor-Health and Human
Services-Education appropriations bill, even though leaders
continue to search for alternative spending offsets. Also on the
agenda is Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,
and the Export Enhancement Act.

     CongressDaily's Final Word
''I'd much rather deal with bombs going off than with health
care. At least with national security, I can usually
figure out who the enemy is.''

     --Rep. Porter J. Goss of Florida, a Republican point man
in the health care debate, expressing his desire on Oct. 5 to
return to his duties as chairman of the House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence.

LOAD-DATE: October 11, 1999

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