Senate Revives Rule Barring Add-On Policy

The Senate voted along party lines yesterday to reinstate a rule barring policy amendments to appropriations bills over objections from Democrats that it was part of a broader strategy to block them from getting votes on their own legislative priorities.

Amendments that amounted to legislating on appropriations bills could be challenged until 1995, when Republicans, in a fight over environmental proposals, set a new precedent allowing such amendments. But since then, Democrats, claiming that the GOP majority has barred them from tacking bills onto other legislation, have started trying to piggy-back the bills onto spending bills.

Republicans decided to go back to the old rules after Democrats tried recently to include their big managed care bill in an agriculture spending bill. Even though many Democrats said they supported the original rules in principle, nearly all of them voted against the Republican proposal, charging that it was politically motivated. The vote was 53 to 45.

POW Records Access

The House approved a bill allowing public access to records on U.S. prisoners of war in Vietnam.

Families of the approximately 2,000 Americans unaccounted for in Southeast Asia will be able to read previously classified information about where many POWs were held, how they were captured, and when they were released or killed.

The standard period for classifying records is 50 years, but Congress deemed the information no longer sensitive four years ago.

Police Promise Audited

The Justice Department inspector general estimated that the Clinton administration will have put only about 60,000 additional police officers on America's streets by 2000, rather than the 100,000 promised.

Releasing an audit of the Community Oriented Policing Services program, Inspector General Michael Bromwich said program officials have altered their timeline, to have "approved grant applications for 100,000 new officers" by the end of fiscal 2000. "This is significantly different from having 100,000 new officers hired and actually deployed to the streets."

Using COPS projections, Bromwich estimated that 59,765 new officers will be deployed by the end of 2000. The finding confirms an earlier preliminary audit.

Tallying Bill for Bills

Attempting to shed light on an estimated $700 billion spent every year to comply with federal rules, the House approved a bill requiring the government to analyze costs and benefits of rules and regulations.

The measure passed 254 to 157, but the Clinton administration and most Democrats opposed it, saying the benefits of federal health and safety rules are difficult to quantify and the bill would put unneeded new burdens on agencies.

It requires the Office of Management and Budget director to submit to Congress an annual analysis of the impact of federal rules and paperwork on the public and private sectors, specifying the costs and benefits of each agency and program rule, and a report on duplications and inconsistencies.