Democratic Farm Aid Bill Rejected, but Talks Continue

The Senate yesterday rejected a Democratic proposal for $10.8 billion in emergency farm aid, but negotiations were continuing last night on a smaller package to help farmers buffeted by plummeting prices.

In a 51 to 47 vote that fell mostly along party lines, the Senate defeated the emergency package pushed by Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Earlier in the day, Daschle and Harkin had touted their measure at a news conference with Vice President Gore and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), saying that Republicans who voted against it would be turning their backs on farmers.

After the vote, though, Democrats said they were optimistic that they could work out a compromise before the Senate recesses at the end of the week. The starting point could be a $7 billion proposal by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) that was pulled off the floor yesterday. GOP leaders said last night they may bring it back as early as today.

House Backs Extension Of Vietnam Export Aid

The House has backed President Clinton's decision to extend Vietnam's eligibility for U.S. export programs for another year.

The 297 to 130 vote means Vietnam will remain eligible for financial backing from the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Department of Agriculture.

Clinton last year granted the former U.S. enemy a waiver to the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment, which bans trading with communist countries that do not allow free emigration. It was seen as a crucial step toward normalizing trade relations with Vietnam.

Federal Costs Top $500,000 In Search for JFK Jr. Plane

When John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane was first reported missing, the government sent sailors and pilots, aviation experts, and even two hydrographic survey ships.

Two weeks later, federal costs are still being totaled, but estimates surpass $500,000 -- not including Air Force and Navy involvement -- but much of that would have been spent anyway.

Some factors:

The U.S. Coast Guard total cost was close to $492,000.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spent about $55,000 to operate the Rude and the Whiting -- ships that usually survey the ocean for updating nautical charts -- in the search for wreckage.

Forces from the Navy and Air Force were sent, including one ship that otherwise wouldn't have been at sea. The Defense Department would not release figures until it completes its review.

The National Transportation Safety Board has embarked on an investigation that is expected to take six to nine months and involve numerous experts.