GOP Wary of Tying Social Issues to Appropriations Bill: Some See Public-Relations Hazard in Face-Off with Clinton

By Roman, Nancy E. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 4, 1997 | Go to article overview

GOP Wary of Tying Social Issues to Appropriations Bill: Some See Public-Relations Hazard in Face-Off with Clinton


Roman, Nancy E., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Robert L. Livingston, warned his Republican colleagues not to wage policy battles on abortion, school choice or any other social issues as Congress distributes federal dollars this month. If they do, Republicans are sure to lose the public-relations battle again, the Louisiana Republican said. "Controversial or impassable riders" will put House Republicans "in a briar patch that will be very difficult to extract ourselves from," he said.

"We've been there before," Mr. Livingston said, referring to the 1995 stalemate between Congress and the president that led to a government shutdown during the Christmas holidays.

"There will be no government shutdown under any circumstances," said one GOP leader's chief of staff yesterday. "It is not good for the country, it is not good for the Congress, and we learned a lesson in 1995."

Some Republicans fear that sentiment, shared by most of the GOP, strengthens the president's veto threat and leaves Democrats with the upper hand as the White House and Congress wrangle over how to spend federal dollars in the remaining four appropriations bills.

"The House should pass what it thinks is the proper form of the bill. The Senate should pass what they think is the proper form of the bill. The president's concerns should be brought in later," said Rep. Ernest Istook, Oklahoma Republican. "When it comes time to make any compromises, you do that after you pass the bills."

Mr. Istook, who has written an amendment to the appropriations bill for the Labor and Health and Human Services departments that requires parental notification before contraception is distributed to minors, said he understands the dilemma Mr. Livingston faces in seeking to pass a bill that Mr. Clinton will sign.

"But here's the key point: Where does Bill Clinton stand on minors receiving birth control from federal funding without the knowledge of their parents?" he asked.

Possible sticking points lay in each of the four appropriations that still must be considered by the House:

* The District of Columbia. Some Republicans would like to add a provision that would give low-income families vouchers that could be used for parochial schools.

* The Labor and Health and Human Services departments. Some pro-life Republicans would like to attach some restrictions to the bill. Mr. Istook will seek to require notification of parents of minors who receive contraception from federally funded clinics.

One restriction already in the funding bill, which was passed by the Senate yesterday, is a ban on almost all federally financed abortions provided by the rapidly growing managed care health insurance industry. …

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