Holbrooke Vote Gets Go-Ahead

The Senate will vote next week on the long-delayed nomination of Richard C. Holbrooke to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) said yesterday after a conversation with Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.).

Daschle said Lott assured him the Senate would act on Holbrooke's nomination before Congress leaves for a month-long recess at the end of next week. Lott spokesman John Czwartacki said later that Lott's go-ahead for a vote was subject to several conditions, including Democratic cooperation in moving legislation through next week.

The post has been vacant since Bill Richardson left last September to become secretary of energy. The nomination was delayed for months while ethics questions were resolved. More recently, Lott and other Republicans have held it hostage to press the Clinton administration on other matters, including a contested nomination to the Federal Election Commission. Both Republicans and Democrats have said they expect Holbrooke to be confirmed.

Democratic Leaders Hit CBO `Bias'

House and Senate Democratic leaders fired off an angry letter to Congressional Budget Office Director Dan L. Crippen, accusing him of partisan "bias" and suggesting that he is undermining the independent stature of the agency.

A Democratic aide said House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (Mo.) and Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) were particularly incensed by a CBO report last week that said Republicans would reduce the federal debt more than Democrats in their rival tax-cutting plans.

"In its 25-year history, the Congressional Budget Office has never produced a document so unfair and misleading," the two Democrats wrote. "Taken together with previous reports that also indicated bias toward Republican positions, this latest analysis raises again, albeit more starkly, the question of whether CBO, under your direction, has taken on a partisan bias."

Crippen could not be reached for comment.

HUD Suit vs. Gunmakers Unlikely

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is considering a lawsuit against gun manufacturers to recoup federal spending on security guards and alarm systems in public housing projects, a source confirmed yesterday.

But administration officials said that although legal action has been discussed, as first reported in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, such a lawsuit is ultimately unlikely. A HUD spokesman expressed concern about gun violence but said there were "no plans beyond what we are already doing to take any further action."

Gun Control Talks May Proceed

Efforts to fashion a gun control compromise inched forward in Congress despite a defiant speech from newly independent Sen. Robert C. Smith (N.H.) urging voters to defeat senators who support such legislation, regardless of their party.

The Senate approved legislation in May to crack down on juvenile crime, with a handful of gun control provisions attached. These would require instant background checks for all sales at gun shows, require that safety devices be sold with all handguns and ban importation of high-capacity ammunition clips.

The House measure contains none of those provisions, and for more than a week, Smith had blocked the Senate from taking the routine parliamentary steps needed to begin those negotiations. Lawmakers yesterday voted 77 to 22 to go ahead.