House Approves Bill Ending

Social Security Boon for Some

The House passed legislation yesterday to end a Social Security practice that allowed some government workers to receive increased retirement benefits. Texas Democrats said the bill was a hardship for their state's teachers.

The bill, approved 396 to 28, also would deny Social Security benefits to fugitive felons and to people who violated probation or parole. Voting against the measure were 25 Democrats and three Republicans.

Last month, Democrats, after intense lobbying by teachers unions, joined their Texas colleagues in opposition to the bill, and it failed under a special procedure requiring two-thirds approval. But many lawmakers changed their position since then.

Spouses of retired, disabled or deceased workers usually receive Social Security benefits. A 1977 law reduces those benefits for employees of some state and local governments who do not pay into the Social Security system and do not collect benefits, and are covered by their own retirement systems.

But a provision allows those workers to avoid the reduction in benefits if they are covered by Social Security and their government pension during their last day on the job.

Congressional investigators found that 4,795 teachers in Texas and 24 in Georgia had taken advantage as of June 2002, transferring briefly to other jobs before retiring. For as little as about $3 paid to Social Security, those teachers will receive on average an extra $4,800 a year.

House Committee Approves

AIDS Funding for Poor Nations

A House panel backed a $15 billion funding program to fight AIDS in poor nations, ending weeks of delay after the bill drew criticism from religious groups that don't want the money spent on condoms.

The House International Relations Committee voted 37 to 8 in approving legislation to provide $3 billion a year for prevention and treatment of AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean, two months after President Bush called for the new initiative on AIDS. The White House had wanted less money spent in the first two years, adding to the delays.

A similar bill is stalled in a committee of the Senate.

GOP Bid to End Filibuster

Over Estrada in Senate Fails

Senate Republicans failed for a fourth time to break a Democratic filibuster thwarting a vote on President Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada for a federal appeals court.

Republicans need 60 votes to end the filibuster and a majority to approve Estrada for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Their latest effort fell short by a 55-to-44 vote. Republicans hold a 51-to-48 edge in the Senate, with one independent.

Democrats, who want more information about Estrada, have asked him to answer more questions and have urged the White House to release memos Estrada wrote while working for the Justice Department. The Bush administration has refused to release those memos. Republicans have accused Democrats of treating Estrada unfairly because he is a conservative Hispanic.

-- Compiled from reports by the Associated Press and Bloomberg News Service