Deal on Highway Bill Proposed

Senate Republicans proposed a $301 billion compromise bill on highways and mass transit yesterday, defying a White House veto threat and warning that a lesser amount would doom the massive job-creating measure in an election year.

Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, gave the House until tomorrow to decide on his offer, which would split the difference between a more expensive Senate bill and a House-passed bill. He termed the proposal "our last shot ever" to get a bill this year.

Inhofe is seeking to break a year-long deadlock on the gigantic jobs and public works bill. The measure has divided the Senate, which is seeking robust spending on the nation's infrastructure; the White House, which is trying to hold down federal spending; and the House, which is caught in the middle.

Inhofe proposed that the two sides agree to $289 billion in guaranteed spending over the next six years, and $301 billion in contract authority, which could run beyond the six-year framework.

He also suggested that, by the end of the six-year period, all states be assured of getting back 94 percent of what they put into the highway trust fund, which is derived from the 18.4 cents per gallon in federal tax that drivers pay at the pump.

Currently, states are guaranteed only 90.5 cents for every dollar they contribute.

Flag-Burning Ban Advances

A Senate panel approved a constitutional amendment that would ban the burning of the American flag, but opponents of the measure say support in the full, GOP-controlled Senate is not enough to push through a change in the Constitution.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a one-line change in the Constitution -- "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States" -- on an 11 to 7 vote, which moves the issue to the full Senate.

Even though some Democrats are joining the Republican majority in backing the change in the closely divided Senate, the support will not be enough to get the required 67 votes needed to pass a constitutional amendment, said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who opposes the proposed change.

Powell Supports Aid for Haiti

International aid must flow rapidly to Haiti to bring new jobs, better roads, potable water and other concrete improvements to the lives of its people, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said.

Powell urged support for the interim government in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation to help establish a working democracy and a stable economy.

The conference at World Bank headquarters drew representatives from more than 20 countries and 30 intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations. Organizers hope the two-day meeting, which began on Monday, will yield at least $924 million in pledges of support for Haiti.

-- From News Services