Battle Over Budget; D.C. Spending Plan Vetoed

Look, ma, no budget!

The District has been operating without a permanent spending plan since Friday, after President Clinton vetoed the city's $4.7 billion budget package because Republicans in Congress had added "unacceptable" amendments to it.

For now, the lack of a budget has little effect on D.C. government. Congress is expected to keep the cash coming at this year's spending levels until lawmakers can agree on a budget for fiscal year 2000, which started Friday. But Valerie Holt, the city's chief financial officer, says that for the time being, the District can't begin new projects or hire for new jobs.

The District's Democratic leaders initially supported the budget plan, which includes expanded college tuition benefits for D.C. students. But when Republicans added measures that would nullify decisions made by city voters, Clinton and others, including Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), vowed to fight.

Republicans say the primary issue isn't the District's right to home rule; it's a matter of refusing to sign off on city voters' overwhelming approval of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. And they say they won't approve a budget for the city until that measure is gone from the package.

Across the Region

Tripp Sues; More Air and Space

* If you want to celebrate New Year's Eve with Will Smith, the Mall's the place to be. The folks behind the morning-to-midnight Dec. 31 extravaganza--including Hillary Rodham Clinton--expect 600,000 people to show up. Only President Lyndon B. Johnson's 1965 inauguration and the 1976 bicentennial fireworks drew larger crowds.

* Washington's rivers are still known by their Indian names, Anacostia and Potomac, but to the untrained eye there are few other reminders of the area's native heritage. That will soon change. Ground was broken at Third Street and Independence Avenue SW for the National Museum of the American Indian, which will house 800,000 artifacts when it opens in 2002, filling the last open space on the Mall.

* Linda R. Tripp says she was just doing her public duty when she cooperated with independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. In return, she says, the White House, Defense Department and 99 "John and Jane Does" orchestrated a campaign to leak confidential information about her. Tripp filed suit in federal court, seeking unspecified damages for "extreme public embarrassment, humiliation" and other abuses stemming from her revelations in the Monica S. Lewinsky matter.

* Steven F. Udvar-Hazy says that when he was a boy, he used to go to Kennedy Airport and take notes about the planes while his friends were playing baseball. Now, the Hungarian immigrant is president of the world's largest aircraft leasing company. And he's giving $60 million to the National Air and Space Museum for its annex at Dulles International Airport. When it's finished in 2003, the facility will be four times bigger than its parent museum.

* A 19-year-old woman whose month-old baby was found dead in a microwave oven has been charged with first-degree murder in the death. Elizabeth Renee Otte, of Lanexa, Va., east of Richmond, was on medication for epilepsy and reportedly told her family that a seizure caused her to mistake her baby for a bottle of milk that needed warming. But epilepsy specialists and law officials seemed skeptical of that claim.

* Othell Wilson, a star point guard for the University of Virginia in the early 1980s, was charged with raping a 20-year-old Fairfax County woman. Wilson, now coach of the St. Mary's College men's basketball team, allegedly also held the woman--a former girlfriend--captive for nearly three days at his apartment in southern St. Mary's County.

* If you run a red light in Maryland, the law's going to come down on you even harder than before. Violators will now get two points instead of one on their records. If you get three points over two years, your driving privileges are in jeopardy. Other state laws that took effect Friday establish a patient's bill of rights and allow unannounced inspections of home day-care centers.

Catching Tigers by the Tail; 3 Sumatran Cubs Enchant Visitors to National Zoo

Like any rambunctious youngsters, Mike, Eric and Chrissie like to tussle with each other. Sometimes, one will even pounce on their mom.

But they can do that without fear of being sent to bed early, because they're tiger cubs. The dark orange 30-pounders are among fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers living today, and they've just made their debut as the newest stars at the National Zoo.

The 3-month-olds will be let outside at 11 a.m. each day for about two hours--if it's okay with their mother, Kerinci.

This being the late 1990s, the prized predators also have their own Web cams. If you want to watch them while they're inside, check out the zoo's home page at www.si.edu/natzoo

The cubs are expected to stay at the National Zoo for about 18 months, about the time they would stay with their mother in the wild, then will be sent to other zoos.