Helms Alone Resists Appointment

Jesse Helms waged a solitary battle on the floor of the Senate yesterday against the nomination of former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun to be ambassador to New Zealand, accusing her of "well-known ethical lapses."

However, the North Carolina Republican, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, received no support from his own party's leadership and members of both parties predicted Moseley-Braun would be confirmed decisively by the Senate.

House Signs On to Electronic Pacts

The House overwhelmingly passed a bill to give electronic contracts and documents the same legal standing as the old-fashioned ink-on-paper variety.

The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, passed by a vote of 356-66. High-tech companies called the bill crucial to the development of electronic commerce, but some consumer advocates worried that the bill would relax consumer protections for electronic documents so much that it would allow scam artists to flourish in cyberspace.

Commerce Committee Chairman Thomas J. Bliley Jr. (R-Va.) altered the bill to address some of those concerns. A similar bill awaits Senate passage.

Reid Wants CDC's Spending Probed

Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) this week asked Attorney General Janet Reno for a criminal investigation into misspending at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a letter to Reno, Reid said an inspector general's investigation had determined the CDC misspent or could not document as much as $12.9 million that Congress approved for research into chronic fatigue syndrome. The audit also found CDC officials knowingly gave Congress false information about where the money went.

CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan has apologized publicly and the General Accounting Office is looking into the diversion. Even so, Reid said, the CDC does not appear to take the problem seriously.

Satellite TV Bill Interference

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm (R-Texas) threatened to block a major satellite television bill unless a provision backed by rural senators and members is dropped.

The provision would provide as much as $1.25 billion in government loan guarantees to ventures that enable rural television viewers to receive signals from local stations via direct broadcast satellite systems. Gramm, who was angered that the bill usurped the jurisdiction of the Banking Committee, said the provision was a "giveaway" and "will not become law this millenium."

The flap temporarily stalled the popular satellite bill, and Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) scrambled to resolve it. Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), a key backer, said the government guarantee is needed to put rural markets on the same footing as more lucrative urban markets.