Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spending Bills Move toward Clinton Veto Crime-Fighting Would Get Boost, Housing Cut

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spending Bills Move toward Clinton Veto Crime-Fighting Would Get Boost, Housing Cut

Article excerpt

Congress moved Thursday to complete work on two spending bills that provide more money for crime-fighting while slicing budgets for housing, environmental and international programs.

President Bill Clinton has pledged to veto both: the $27.3 billion Commerce-Justice-State departments bill because it includes the Republican plan to dismantle his police-on-the-beat program; and the $80.6 billion Veterans Affairs-Housing and Urban Development departments bill, a battleground in the fight over environmental protection spending.

By a 227-190 vote, the House passed a compromise version of the VA-HUD bill Thursday, reversing an embarrassing setback to the GOP leadership. The measure still needs Senate approval before it goes to Clinton.

The House had rejected a nearly identical bill Nov. 29, when 25 Republicans joined Democrats in a 216-208 vote to resubmit the measure to a House-Senate conference with instructions to come up more money for veterans medical care. With only 11 Republicans breaking ranks this time, a similar motion was defeated, 219-198.

GOP leaders argued that funding for VA medical programs would rise by $400 million from 1995 levels under the bill and that they represent the only major area in the bill to get an increase. Overall, it would decrease funding by $10 billion from 1995 levels.

The HUD budget is down 21 percent, to $19.3 billion; the Environmental Protection Agency also loses 21 percent, to $5.7 billion; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is cut $350 million, to $13.8 billion. The VA's total budget for both health care and benefits is $37.7 billion, about the same as last year but almost $1 billion under the administration's request.

The bill eliminates AmeriCorps, Clinton's national service organization.

Democrats called the cuts to housing and environmental programs excessive.

"These cuts would cripple EPA's enforcement efforts, seriously weakening implementation of virtually every major environmental law, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act and the law regulating the use of pesticides," said Rep. …

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