Wetlands Funding Increase Sought

The Clinton administration will ask Congress to double funding next year for a voluntary national program to protect and restore wetlands, Vice President Gore said yesterday.

The administration's fiscal 2001 budget, which is due out Feb. 7, will request $30 million for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, up from $15 million this year, Gore said in a prepared statement. About 3.2 million acres of wildlife habitat are already protected under the program.

The budget also will request $600 million for a new Conservation Security Program that will provide annual payments to farmers and ranchers who implement certain conservation practices.

House GOP to Set Debt-Cutting Plan

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said House Republicans will devise a plan eliminating the public debt by 2015. The current public debt is roughly $3.7 trillion, while the government has borrowed another $2 trillion from the Social Security Trust Fund.

Hastert said the GOP could accomplish its goal while still accommodating Texas Gov. George W. Bush's tax cut plan, which is estimated to cost $483 billion over five years.

"Paying off our public debt will be an important goal for the next 15 years, but it will not keep us from accomplishing other goals at the same time," Hastert said in a speech in Albuquerque.

House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) countered that Democrats had pushed for retiring the debt as soon as possible. "It's what we were talking about all last year," he said.

Navy to Restore Ties to Tailhook

The Navy said it is restoring relations with the Tailhook Association, the naval aviators group whose 1991 Las Vegas convention produced a sex scandal that forced the resignation of the Navy's civilian chief and focused attention on sexual harassment in the military.

"We've concluded that the time is right to restore ties," Navy Secretary Richard Danzig said in announcing the decision, which was made jointly with the Navy's top officer, Adm. Jay Johnson, and the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Jones.

The decision means Navy and Marine Corps aviators will once again be allowed to attend Tailhook conventions and professional development seminars on official military business. Ties were severed in October 1991 after word got out about drunken sexual debauchery at the Las Vegas convention a month earlier.