Hastert May Seek Welfare Funds Back From States

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said yesterday he is seriously considering taking back billions of dollars given to the states to run their welfare programs.

Despite projections of large budget surpluses, Congress must live within tight spending limits established in 1997.

"We're trying to balance the budget," Hastert said, but he admitted the dicey nature of taking back money: "We have a contract with the states, an agreement with the states."

Federal spending on welfare used to rise when more people signed up for welfare and drop when welfare rolls fell. In 1996, Congress agreed to give states $16.5 billion each year no matter how many people are on welfare. Since then, welfare rolls have dropped to a 30-year low, and states have $4.2 billion unspent in their federal accounts.

Congressional budget writers also are considering cutting child support and Medicaid funding. Governors are lobbying heavily against any cuts.

House Appropriators Still Leave NASA Short

The House Appropriations Committee voted to ease proposed cuts in NASA's budget but left the space agency $900 million short of what President Clinton wants for next year.

NASA's appropriation was part of a $94 billion measure financing veterans, housing, space and environment programs for fiscal 2000. To pay for the $400 million increase for NASA and a $700 million increase for veterans' health care, the committee voted by voice to kill the AmeriCorps national service program, cut disaster relief funds and shift money from a separate $300 billion bill financing labor, health and education programs -- leaving it almost $20 billion short of what Clinton wants for those social programs.

To help pay for the measure, Republicans are considering delaying Medicaid payments to states from late September 2000 into early October, pushing the expenditure off the books for fiscal 2000 and into 2001, "saving" several billion dollars, aides said.

The Appropriations Committee also deleted funding for the controversial Federal Intrusion Detection Network (FIDNET), which the Clinton administration had proposed to monitor all Internet traffic on government computer networks.

The idea had been assailed as an invasion of privacy, and a Commerce subcommittee said it was "concerned" about the delineation of responsibility for development of the network, questioned whether the program duplicates efforts in other agencies and suggested that "all federal agencies should make funding for this important activity a priority within their own budgets."

For the Record

House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) yesterday named Juliette N. Kayyem, a former legal adviser to the Justice Department, to the National Commission on Terrorism. Kayyem replaces Salam Al Marayati, whose nomination was withdrawn after American Jewish groups complained about Marayati's criticism of Israeli government policies.

F. Whitten Peters was confirmed by the Senate as secretary of the Air Force, a post he has filled in an acting capacity since Sheila Widnall resigned in 1997. Also confirmed were Evelyn Simonowitz Lieberman, former White House aide, to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy; Robert S. Gelbard, a career diplomat, to be ambassador to Indonesia; M. Osman Siddique to be ambassador to the Republic of Fiji; Michael A. Sheehan to be coordinator for anti-terrorism with the rank of ambassador at large; Charles R. Wilson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit; and William Haskell Alsup to be U.S. district judge for the North District of California.