Senate Still Locked Up On Health Care Bill

After hours of speeches, negotiations and caucuses, the Senate yesterday remained stuck in a partisan deadlock over legislation to regulate managed health care plans, with no breakthrough in sight.

Democrats were still blocking action on appropriations bills for next year until Republicans agree to votes on key elements of their health proposal, and the GOP was struggling to avoid capitulation to their demands.

The Senate will return Monday to consider proposals by Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to force votes on four pending appropriations bills. But Democrats have the votes to block the 60-vote super-majority required to force action, meaning the stalemate is likely to continue.

Tougher Rules On Asset Forfeiture

Police would have a tougher time seizing private property with suspected links to crime under a bill approved by the House.

House members voted 375 to 48 to set new rules for how the federal government seizes houses, cars, boats, cash and securities. The measure faces a difficult path in the Senate.

House Approves Flag Amendment

For the third consecutive Congress, the House voted to amend the Constitution to allow legislation that would ban desecration of the flag.

The 305 to 124 vote was a comfortable 19 above the two-thirds needed for a constitutional amendment. It moves the focus to the Senate, which in the past has resisted the measure and seems one or two votes short of the 67 needed. Supporters say the amendment is needed to protect the nation's symbol, but opponents argue it would be an infringement of First Amendment free-speech rights.

Study Raises Questions On Drunk Driving Limits

A government study has found that reducing by one drink the alcohol it takes to become legally drunk does not conclusively reduce the number or severity of alcohol-related crashes.

The finding challenges statements by President Clinton after a 1996 university study reported alcohol-related fatalities had fallen in states where the blood-alcohol limit for determining drunken driving had been cut from 0.10 percent to 0.08.

The General Accounting Office, the investigating arm of Congress, said such claims could not be supported because researchers used flawed methodology or ignored other factors that could contribute to a lower fatality count.

Senate Panel Approves 3 Spending Bills

The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved three spending bills that would do everything from blocking Clinton administration efforts to limit mining on federal lands to leaving the door open for a congressional cost-of-living pay raise of about $4,600 from the current $136,700.

A Final Attempt At Y2K Consensus

Congressional action on legislation to reduce lawsuits related to the Year 2000 computer problem was put off so Congress and the White House could try a final time to resolve differences and avoid a veto.

That decision came after lawmakers from both parties complained that the White House, while saying it wants a bill to stop frivolous lawsuits, had failed to offer ideas.

White House chief of staff John D. Podesta, in a letter to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), repeated the administration's threat to veto the current bills -- but urged discussions. "Rather than going down this destructive path, we should work together to find a bipartisan solution," Podesta wrote.