Risking another clash with the Clinton administration over abortion and U.S. spending abroad, the House opened debate late yesterday on a $12.6 billion foreign aid bill.
The legislation pushed by Republicans had the tentative support of Democrats, despite their loud complaints about $1.9 billion in slashes from President Clinton's proposals.
The House worked late into the night on the bill, but a final vote was not scheduled to happen until Monday. Major battles could occur when the bill goes to a House-Senate conference committee.
One fight may be over funding levels and another over an amendment, approved 228 to 200 yesterday, to prohibit U.S. aid to organizations that use privately raised funds to lobby in favor of liberalized abortion laws.
The Senate last month passed a $12.7 billion bill that does not include the antiabortion provision. Democrats hope in final budget negotiations to find more money for foreign aid. Both bills would cut foreign spending by more than $600 million from last year's level.
A Clinton administration statement said senior advisers would recommend a veto if foreign operations funding is not increased above both bills' appropriations. A veto also is promised if the provision prohibiting abortion advocacy ends up in the final bill.
In dual votes that sent a mixed message, the House first passed an antiabortion amendment and then approved, 221 to 208, another measure that would allow funds to any family planning group that can show it works to reduce abortions.