Space Station Survives House Vote

The House rejected the annual effort to kill NASA's space station last night as Congress began a hectic month of sorting through spending bills.

As lawmakers returned from their summer recess, the House voted 298 to 121 to defeat an attempt by Reps. Timothy J. Roemer (D-Ind.) and Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) to eliminate the space station, one of NASA's highest profile programs.

A spending bill the House is debating would provide $2.4 billion next year for the station, whose first components are already orbiting Earth. Construction is expected to take five years.

Roemer, who has been trying to terminate the program since 1992, cited its cost overruns and the pressures its price tag put on the rest of the federal budget. One congressional estimate for building and maintaining the station over its lifetime is nearly $100 billion. But with space station contracts spread among many congressional districts, the program has broad support in Congress.

The space station funds were included in a $92 billion measure financing veterans, housing, science and environmental programs for fiscal 2000, which begins Oct. 1.

In other action on the same bill, the House voted 232 to 187 to abolish the Selective Service System. Critics say the draft registration agency is an unnecessary remnant of the Cold War era, but the Senate is unlikely to go along with closing the agency, which requires all men to register when they turn 18 for a potential future draft. There has been no draft since 1973, near the end of the Vietnam War.

Wider Y2K Alert Center Urged

Key senators called for the inclusion of China, India and Pakistan in a U.S.-planned "early warning" center aimed at avoiding Year 2000-related missile miscues.

So far, only Russia--with 2,500 nuclear-tipped missiles on hair-trigger alert--has been invited by the Clinton administration to join in a shared Y2K Center for Strategic Stability being set up in Colorado.

Sens. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), who heads a special Senate panel on the 2000 technology problem, and Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), the vice chair, said they were optimistic that Russia finally was ready to accept the U.S. invitation.

High Court Hires Five Minority Clerks

The Supreme Court will begin its 1999-2000 term next month with the most minority law clerks in recent memory, but they were chosen before civil rights groups and some members of Congress criticized the justices' hiring practices.

Among the new class of 35 law clerks at work for the highest court's nine justices are five minority clerks, two blacks and three Asian Americans. By comparison, last year's class included one, a Hispanic. Court employees could not remember any recent term in which the justices employed more than three minority clerks.

For the Record

* The Senate confirmed three U.S. district judges: Adalberto Jose Jordan for the Southern District of Florida, Marsha J. Pechman for the Western District of Washington state and Carlos Murguia for Kansas.

* The Navy is convening a special board to reconsider the promotion of a naval intelligence officer who claims he improperly was denied advancement after a laser beam damaged his eye as he flew over a Russian cargo ship in a helicopter in 1997. A Navy official said the decision to reconsider Lt. John Daly's promotion was based on findings by the Navy's inspector general.