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House Resists Senate Environment 'Riders'

The Budget
By Eric Pianin and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, October 5, 1999; Page A4

The House voted yesterday to resist any provisions undermining the environment when its negotiators seek a compromise bill funding the Interior Department, setting up a fight with the Senate in coming weeks.

By a vote of 218 to 199, lawmakers signaled their opposition to 20 measures, known as "riders," that the Senate has attached to its version of the Interior appropriations bill. The provisions include language that would block the administration from collecting higher royalties from oil companies, prevent new energy efficiency standards, expand an exemption for fur dealers, allow grazing without environmental review and specifically extend grazing in a Washington recreation area over the National Park Service's objections, and give agencies the right to allow logging and road building in national forests without first conducting wildlife surveys.

The potential clash between the House and Senate on Interior Department appropriations occurred as Republican leaders in both houses searched for ways to finance many spending bills without dipping into the Social Security surplus. All appropriations bills for fiscal 2000 were supposed to be approved before the federal spending year began last Friday.

Rep. Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.) offered the motion "to instruct conferees" on the Interior bill. Such an instruction is a non-binding resolution that stakes out the House position before it goes to conference with the Senate.

The motion supports a total of $10 million in additional funding for the national endowments for the arts and humanities, as well as current limits on mining waste and the elimination of any Senate provisions harming the environment.

Rep. John E. Baldacci (D-Maine) said he hoped the House vote would give its negotiators added leverage once they begin hammering out the details of a compromise with their Senate counterparts.

"They end up recognizing [that] the majority of the House feels strongly about this effort," Baldacci said.

GOP leaders were also exhorting their troops to support a foreign aid bill that has been mired in a controversy over abortion. Several Republicans oppose the measure because it does not restrict international groups receiving family planning funds, while Democrats object to the bill because they argue that it fails to finance important administration initiatives such as the Mideast peace process.

Last night House Republican leaders held a meeting to drum up support for the foreign aid bill. In a similar session on Friday, according to a participant, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) tried to convince his colleagues that they were jeopardizing the Republican majority by taking such an inflexible stand on family planning.

"How many babies are you going to save in the minority?" he asked them.

The House leaders also discussed last night how they would reduce spending if they are forced to jettison a proposal that would stagger payment of the earned income tax credit to working poor families over 12 months rather than in a lump sum. That approach has been opposed by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, and the Republican majority in the Senate and most Democrats.

Participants in last night's House meeting said the most likely alternative would be across-the-board spending cuts.

© 1999 The Washington Post Company

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