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Clinton Signs Spending Bill

Unable to persuade House Republicans to help the International Monetary Fund, a retreating President Clinton signed an emergency bill today that provides $6 billion to victims of winter storms and to U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf and Bosnia.

The House and Senate both approved the measure late Thursday, sending it to Clinton without the $18 billion he wanted for the IMF and the $900 million he sought for unpaid dues to the United Nations. Rather than cast a veto, as aides had threatened, Clinton signed the measure into law this morning, said Linda Ricci, spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Clinton, however, reminded lawmakers of the unfinished business.

"I call on Congress to step up to its responsibility and renew our commitment to the International Monetary Fund and to pay our United Nations dues," he said at a White House news conference earlier Thursday. "I am confident we can do this in a bipartisan fashion."

The House approved the measure 242-163. Voting for it were 50 Democrats and 192 Republicans; voting against were 141 Democrats, 21 Republicans and one independent.

Senate passage came later in the evening, 88-11. Forty-eight Republicans and 40 Democrats voted for it, while six Republicans and five Democrats were opposed.

In the end, Clinton chose not to delay funds for soldiers and disaster victims in an election-year veto battle over a position few politicians are willing to fight for: more foreign aid.

Even though the GOP-controlled Senate overwhelming backed Clinton's request for money to help the IMF support Asia's faltering economies, House Republicans opposed it.

They were led by conservatives who have linked it to their drive to ban aid to organizations that lobby for eased abortion laws overseas. House leaders have promised a vote on the IMF funds later this year, but they made sure it was omitted from the bill sent Clinton on Thursday.

The package contained nearly $2.9 billion for the Pentagon, including funds for U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf and Bosnia.

There was an additional $2.6 billion to help residents and federal agencies rebuild from ice storms in the Northeast, El Nino-caused floods on the West Coast and other natural disasters. It had $550 million for veterans' benefits and $142 million for other domestic programs, ranging from repairs to the Capitol dome to handling the year-2000 problem facing many government computers.

White House aides and congressional Democrats noted that Republicans had dropped several provisions that Clinton opposed. One would have subsidized banks to encourage them to continue making student loans. Another would have allowed the sale of assault-type weapons that the government has seized, and another would have required congressional approval before an attack on Iraq.

But other items objectionable to Clinton and many congressional Democrats made it into the billincluding $2.3 billion in cuts from housing for the poor. And there was language allowing construction of a road through a portion of the Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico that some local Indians objected to.

The bill would also:

  • Block until at least Oct. 1 a Clinton administration plan to distribute scarce organs to patients who are sickest, rather than those nearest certain hospitals.

  • Delay until October another administration proposal that could have let the government charge more for oil that companies extract from federal lands. Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., said the provision would cost the Treasury $66 million.

  • Let Vermont apply for federal funds for ecological research on Lake Champlain that until now only states bordering the Great Lakes or oceans could receive.

By Alan Fram