House GOP Leaders Offer Clinton Advice on Budget

House Republican leaders urged President Clinton yesterday to present a budget for next year that does not spend Social Security surpluses or raise taxes.

"As Republicans, we believe--and we're sure you do as well--that these principles are nonnegotiable, now and in the future," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) said in a letter to the president.

The two leaders also said that Clinton's spending blueprint for fiscal 2001 should shrink government while boosting defense spending. Clinton plans to release his budget on Feb. 7. It is expected to total roughly $1.8 trillion.

"By embracing the principles outlined above, you and Congress can ease partisan differences and greatly expedite the fiscal year 2001 budget process," Armey and Hastert wrote.

White House spokesman Barry Toiv responded by attacking the GOP's long-standing effort to enact a large tax cut.

Nutrition Counseling Subsidy Is Urged for Senior Citizens

Medicare should pay for nutrition counseling to help senior citizens change their diets when a doctor recommends it, the Institute of Medicine said.

The suggested new benefit, which would cost an estimated $1.4 billion over five years, would expand Medicare's disease-prevention efforts.

A report from the institute said 86 percent of the 34 million Americans over age 65 covered by Medicare suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes--just a few of the medical problems that can be helped by dietary improvements. Medicare also covers 5 million disabled Americans who could benefit.

"For several conditions that are very prevalent in the elderly, initial therapy should be [changes in] diet, but it's not a covered benefit," said Lawrence Appel, an associate professor of medicine at John Hopkins University who served on the institute committee that produced the report. "Our recommendation is that it should be a covered benefit."

Wildlife Refuge Chiefs Seek New Leadership Structure

The nation's 521 wildlife refuges suffer from poor leadership, inadequate staffing and low funding, according to a survey of refuge managers.

More than 90 percent of the 230 refuge managers surveyed said they want a new leadership structure or else the refuges should be removed from the Interior Department's Fish and Wildlife Service. They also want Congress to hold hearings on the refuges' future.

Dan Ashe, the Fish and Wildlife Service official who oversees the refuge system, said he was disappointed with the survey results, noting that the operations and maintenance budget for refuges has grown from $161 million in 1995 to more than $280 million this year.

Refuges are located in all 50 states and cover 93 million acres, making the system the third largest land agency behind the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. About 34 million Americans visit refuges each year to watch birds and other wildlife, hunt, fish and go on interpretive hikes.