House Risks Showdown with Disaster-Aid Offsets
Akers, Mary Ann, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
The House challenged the White House yesterday by approving a $2.9 billion package of disaster aid and funding for U.S. military missions, as President Clinton requested, but paying for them by cutting programs dear to his heart.
The administration immediately threatened to veto the measure.
The legislation, which passed by a narrow vote of 212-208, also must be reconciled with the Senate's version. That legislation also would clean up the havoc wrought by El Nino and fund military deployments in the Balkans and the Persian Gulf, but it would not finance them by cutting funding elsewhere.
Among the controversial cuts proposed in the House bill are reductions in low-income housing subsidies and bilingual education and in Americorps, Mr. Clinton's favored youth-volunteer program.
"We urge you to avoid actions that will result in gridlock and that will be detrimental to our troops abroad and our citizens at home in a time of need," the president's budget-policy advisers said in a statement addressing House Republican leaders.
Democrats said the offsets were mean-spirited and could have come from other areas, like defense.
House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt characterized the measure as harmful to children and dangerous for more than 100,000 elderly people who would lose their subsidized housing if such cuts were enacted, according to estimates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
"I don't think these are the tradeoffs we should be considering," he said.
Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said the GOP decision was a politically calculated "poke in the eye."
Rep. Robert L. Livingston, Louisiana Republican and chairman of the panel, responded that to cut defense spending would jeopardize national security. …