Senate Boosts Funding
The Senate adopted compromise legislation yesterday authorizing an increase in spending for intelligence activities, sending it to President Clinton by voice vote. The measure includes a provision strengthening sanctions against drug traffickers and their associates.
The bill covers the Central Intelligence Agency and 10 other intelligence-gathering agencies and programs. Clinton is expected to sign it, its sponsors said.
The spending levels are classified, but lawmakers familiar with the legislation said it totaled about $29.5 billion, up considerably from the $26.7 billion total in 1998.
Russian Nuclear Plants
Undergo Y2K Drill
Eight of nine Russian nuclear power plants have undergone a Y2K drill, which was monitored by U.S. experts, and no major problems were reported, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said.
The drill tested power distribution systems, communications systems and simulated the loss of off-site power at the Leningrad nuclear power plant, the Energy Department said.
Richardson sent a team of the department's nuclear energy and technology experts to monitor the Wednesday and Thursday Y2K drill at the invitation of the Russian government. An earlier drill, on Nov. 1, simulated a Y2K disruption at the Kursk nuclear power plant and found no major problems.
Veterans' Health Care
The Senate approved and sent to the White House legislation that would expand long-term care coverage for the nation's veterans and give a cost-of-living boost to veterans receiving compensation for service-related disabilities. President Clinton is expected to sign the measure.
The cost-of-living increase amounts to 2.4 percent, mirroring the annual increase also going to Social Security beneficiaries.
The health care package requires the Veterans Affairs Department to increase home and community-based long-term care, lift a six-month limit on VA-provided adult day health care and reimburse low-income veterans for emergency treatment at non-VA facilities.
Bill Shifts Regulation
Of Truck and Bus Safety
The Senate passed legislation shifting responsibility for the safety of trucks and buses from the Federal Highway Administration to a new Motor Carriers Safety Administration. The same bill was passed by the House Thursday.
The action ends a long struggle by consumer advocates and their allies in Congress to put the safety role under an independent agency.
Army Secretary Wants
School to Remold Itself
The secretary of the Army said he wants the Georgia school for Latin American soldiers to drop classes on commando tactics, add classes on democracy and lose its reputation as a training center for human rights abusers.
Under the plan, the U.S. Army School of the Americas would remold itself with a new name and new student body to better fight post-Cold War security problems, Secretary Louis Caldera said in an interview.
Senators May Oppose
President Clinton and Senate Republicans appeared yesterday to be headed for another clash over nominations as Clinton signaled that he might give "recess appointments" to 13 stalled nominees, including acting civil rights enforcement chief Bill Lann Lee.
Conservatives immediately balked. Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) vowed to use parliamentary procedures to block "every single judicial nominee" for the rest of the president's term if Clinton pushes through with the recess appointments.
Under the Constitution, the president may temporarily bypass the Senate confirmation process by giving an individual an appointment during a congressional recess. In this case, the appointee may serve in the post until the end of next year--when Clinton's term would be close to expiring, anyway.
The two sides reached a partial truce last summer when Clinton agreed that, in the future, he would send the Senate a list of any potential recess appointments before the Senate recessed--which he did this week. Among the 13 potential appointments, Inhofe identified five that he said he would oppose.