GOP Affirms Social Security Pledge

House Republicans reiterated their determination not to spend any of the Social Security surplus yesterday and questioned a Congressional Budget Office memo to Democrats indicating the House was already on course to spend $18 billion of the trust fund.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who observed that CBO's initial analysis was based on Democratic lawmakers' assumptions, brandished his own CBO letter affirming the Republicans would not use any of the Social Security surplus if they followed their plan to spend $592.1 billion in the upcoming fiscal year.

While internal GOP documents indicate the leadership is planning to spend $600 billion this year, Hastert predicted Republicans would find budget offsets to trim spending to the required level.

House Bill Bolsters Status of Fetus

A fetus would be recognized as a separate entity for the first time under a bill passed by the House.

Under the measure, individuals who harm a fetus during the course of committing a crime already covered under federal law could be convicted of a separate offense.

The vote was 254 to 172, although most Democrats and some Republicans argued that the bill is an attempt to chip away at abortion rights.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) said the bill would give the fetus "separate but equal" rights in federal law for the first time and undermine the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, but the bill's sponsor, Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and supporters said it would retain abortion rights.

Graham won the support of 56 Democrats. Twenty-one Republicans voted no.

A substitute amendment offered by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), which would have increased penalties for harming a pregnant woman without identifying the fetus as a separate entity, was rejected 224 to 201.

The White House said Wednesday that if the bill, which sources said Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) plans to introduce in the Senate, was presented to President Clinton, senior advisers would recommend he veto it.

Cuba Embargo, Milk Rules Survive

Showering favors on key lawmakers' states, congressional leaders ended a week-long impasse on an $8.7 billion farm relief package without yielding to producer demands that they ease the Cuban trade embargo and revise milk-pricing rules.

The farm aid, part of the Agriculture Department spending bill that the House and Senate could vote on today, offers $7.5 billion for growers hurt by a second year of low market prices and $1.2 billion for farmers who lost crops to drought and floods. Moving separately through Congress is $500 million for hurricane-related farm losses in North Carolina.