Facing Veto Threat, GOP Retreats on Agency Cuts, Anti-Abortion Bid
Barber, Ben, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
House and Senate Republicans bowed to veto threats yesterday, abandoning efforts to shut the giant foreign-aid and information agencies and dropping an anti-abortion measure.
But Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said President Clinton will veto the bill anyway because it doesn't allocate enough money for foreign affairs.
The moves came during an unusually hostile conference committee meeting at which Republicans, without Democratic support, authorized spending $6.5 billion to run the State Department for each of the next two years, saving $1 billion over fiscal 1995 levels.
The compromise legislation called for shutting the Agency for International Development (AID), the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA).
But the loophole that the committee opened yesterday gives Mr. Clinton the right to waive the law and preserve any two of the agencies.
If a choice had to be made on which agency to shut, congressional and administration sources said, it would be the smallest of the three agencies, ACDA, which has a $40 million annual budget.
But an AID official said the bill was not a victory for his agency.
"Even if the president exercises the waiver, the bill still forces $1.8 billion in savings over four years and would force AID to shut down before the end of the fiscal year," said the official, who asked not to be identified.
"It's going to be vetoed," Mr. Kerry, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters. "The policy is wrong and the numbers are wrong."
The Republicans also dropped an anti-abortion measure that would have cut off most U.S. funds for family planning.
"This measure is a down payment on our promise to streamline and consolidate our foreign affairs operations," said Benjamin A. Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee.
Assistant Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said the State Department has just begun to plow through the new provisions in the bill, which it received moments before the voting yesterday. …