The deficit-reduction measure passed last weekend includes an unusual promise from House Democratic leaders to try to spend $8.8 billion more over the next three years for predominantly black colleges and inner-city housing, education and nutrition programs.
The nonbinding pledge, contained in the report accompanying the legislation, was part of an effort to attract support from black House members for budget-related bills that came to the House floor last month, according to House Democratic leadership aides.
Specifically, House Democratic leaders promised to try to increase spending through fiscal 1993, which begins Oct. 1, 1992, for research and building programs for predominantly black colleges; housing, education, nutrition, health, child care and anti-gang programs; development aid for southern Africa, and famine relief for Ethiopia and Sudan.
"The House Democratic leadership believes that every effort must be made to . . . achieve the goals," the report states. "We look forward to working with the Congressional Black Caucus on this important matter."
The undertaking began after the House voted 254 to 179 in the early morning of Oct 5. to reject the budget-summit agreement. Only two members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and House Majority Whip William H. Gray III (D-Pa.), supported that measure. Twenty members of the black caucus voted against it, while Rep. George W. Crockett Jr. (D-Mich.) missed the vote.
The talks intensified hours before last weekend's vote after black House members said they would oppose the budget legislation as a way of striking out at President Bush for vetoing the civil rights bill. Friday night, House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) met with members of the black caucus as a group and individually with Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.), chairman of the caucus, according to congressional aides.
During those sessions, Foley and the House Democratic leadership discussed making civil rights legislation a top priority next year, continuing to press for a surtax on millionaires and working to restore cuts in federally guaranteed student loans, the aides said.
When the House voted 228 to 200 Saturday morning to approve the deficit-reduction bill, 10 black House members voted for the package and 13 rejected it.
Other language in the massive deficit-cutting measure, part of a five-year plan to save $492 billion, exempts from new accounting rules the Tennessee Valley Authority -- in the home state of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.) -- and loans to foreign purchasers of American wheat, including wheat grown in the eastern Washington district represented by Foley, a former House Agriculture Committee chairman. The new rules are designed to protect against unexpected government costs and to prevent the government from hiding loan subsidies. Another provision removes the limit on aid the government may give to Americans escaping from Kuwait and Iraq. Before June, the law limited to $300,000 the total aid the government may pay in any fiscal year to U.S. citizens fleeing war, invasion or any other crisis.
Rep. Ted Weiss (D-N.Y.) also won language that would allow about 300 elderly and poor survivors of the Holocaust to exclude German reparation payments when determining Medicaid benefits for nursing-home services. Currently, those beneficiaries have their aid reduced by the amount of those payments, which average about $1,600 a year. The item is expected to cost the government about $500,000 annually.
Staff writer Steven Mufson contributed to this report.