Republicans redrafting relief bill

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    By SHAWN DICKERSON

    Republican leadership in the House of Representatives is working to create a strategy to achieve the passage of a disaster-aid bill President Clinton vetoed Monday.

    Elizabeth Morra, communications director for the House Appropriations Committee, said House Republicans had hoped to return an amended draft of the bill to the White House by Wednesday, but as their meetings continued, returning the bill by the end of the week looked more realistic.

    “Chairman Livingston (the sponsor of the bill) hopes very much to get this bill back to the President as quickly as possible in a signable fashion,” she said.

    The original bill called for $5.6 billion for emergency aid and relief from natural disasters, $1.9 billion for overseas peace keeping and additional money for non-emergency supplemental appropriations, Morra said.

    “What we have done with this bill is try to get ahead of some of these disasters, and we’ve put the money that’s needed into the FEMA account so that checks can be written to the people that are waiting for some relief,” she said.

    “The bill is fully paid for with offsetting cuts, and it provides disaster relief for 35 states,” she said. Programs whose funds were cut to pay for the provisions in the bill include NASA’s wind tunnel project and some of HUD’s reserve funding.

    “The bill’s defense spending is offset with defense cuts,” Morra said.

    In addition to these provisions, the bill also contains several items Pres. Clinton found unacceptable.

    In a White House statement regarding the bill, the president outlined his opposition to a part of the bill, among others, that called for an “automatic continuing resolution for the fiscal year 1998.” This provision was designed to protect against any future government shut-downs, but the president saw it as “putting the government’s finances on automatic pilot.”

    The president also opposed a provision in the bill that would restrict how the national census is taken and several other provisions unrelated to disaster relief.

    For the bill to gain his approval, the president said, “The time has come to stop playing politics with the lives of Americans in need and to send me a clean, unencumbered disaster relief bill that I can and will sign the moment it reaches my desk.”

    After the president’s action, House Republicans began to seek an alternative to the vetoed bill. Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that “Senate Democrats launched an all-night series of media appearances (Tuesday night) in a Capitol suite just off the Senate floor to dramatize the urgency of the issue.”

    Byron Daynes, BYU professor of political science, said a situation like the one surrounding the disaster-aid bill is not uncommon in politics.

    “The party out of power, out of the White House, will try and put the president in a position … to accept measures that they know they can’t get through in any other way,” he said.

    “The difference with this (bill), though, was that the message was clearly given ahead of time to the Republicans that the president was not going to accept this if it was bogged down with those two amendments,” Daynes said.

    He said this situation has been particularly frustrating to those in the Midwest directly affected by natural disasters.

    “Promises were made to them that government would speedily come through to their aid … and they hadn’t excepted this kind of delay that is certainly not doing them any good. So they’re the first ones that tire of this,” he said.

    Daynes said that though this kind of situation has arisen before, the fact it came in the crisis of the moment is what was particularly offensive to the president.

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