Minimum Wage Increase at Risk

A $1-an-hour increase in the minimum wage was imperiled yesterday by House disputes over small business tax relief and how quickly the boost would take effect.

As Republican and Democratic sponsors of competing plans scurried for votes, Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) said the issue would not reach the House floor as planned this week unless a GOP-tilted version with $30 billion in tax relief over five years appeared likely to gain sufficient bipartisan support.

That measure, sponsored by Reps. Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.) and Gary A. Condit (D-Calif.), has drawn a veto threat from the Clinton administration over the tax package. In addition, many GOP moderates view the bill as weak because the minimum wage increase is phased in over three years.

Trade Bill Clears Senate Hurdle

A bill to lower trade barriers with Africa and the Caribbean, strongly endorsed by the administration, won a crucial Senate test vote, putting it on a path toward passage.

The 74 to 23 vote to limit debate followed more than a week of partisan bickering, mostly on unrelated matters, that threatened to sink the bill.

The bill, which the House passed two years in a row, would lower or end tariffs and quotas on products from 48 sub-Saharan African countries. It also would make U.S. business investment in the region easier.

Outside Panel to Aid War Probe

An outside panel will advise the military in its investigation of allegations that U.S. soldiers killed civilians at No Gun Ri during the Korean War, the Pentagon announced. Panelists include a former House member, a historian, a former ambassador to Korea, a journalist and three retired officers, including the former commander of U.S. and U.N. forces in Korea.

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon announced the panel as a third arm of the probe.

On Sept. 30, the Associated Press reported accounts by American veterans and South Korean villagers that U.S. soldiers killed as many as 400 civilian refugees at No Gun Ri, a South Korean hamlet, in the early weeks of the war.

Forest Initiative Irks Senators

A bipartisan group of angry senators lambasted the Clinton administration and U.S. Forest Service, saying they failed to include Congress in federal land management decisions.

Their objections follow President Clinton's announcement last month to preserve at least 40 million acres of national forest by banning road-building.

"The president is not king . . . and cannot write an executive order on what will be done with 40 million acres," said Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) at a Senate Energy subcommittee hearing.

Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), ranking Democrat of the subcommittee, joined his disgruntled GOP colleagues in decrying how the Clinton administration has presented national forest policies.