Parties Set Priorities

Amid continuing calls for bipartisan cooperation, Senate GOP and Democratic leaders this morning outlined their agendas for the coming session. But while the lists of 10 Republican and 12 Democratic bills that will be introduced this afternoon and evening include some with similar goals and even similar names, the gulf in priorities appears as wide as ever.

The top GOP issues, unveiled at a news conference by Senate Majority Leader Lott and Majority Whip Nickles, are the balanced budget constitutional amendment, an education bill that includes vouchers as well as the disabled student education measure leftover from last year, and a $163 billion, five-year tax cut package. Also on the list are two measures vetoed by President Clinton last year: product liability reform and partial birth abortion ban legislation. Omnibus and juvenile crime measures, comp time legislation, a missile defense program, Superfund revision, and restrictions on the use of union dues for political purposes round out the list.

Democrats' top priorities, unveiled by Minority Leader Daschle, are campaign finance reform, a package of education funding measures, and a bill to subsidize health insurance for children. Also on the Democrats' list are pension reform, a youth violence bill, an environmental cleanup measure, a bill boosting child care funding, a job training bill, a bill to boost the cattle industry, and a tax relief measure that is more modest than the one put forth by Republicans.

Lott said he plans to talk about scheduling with Daschle soon, but anticipated the balanced budget amendment would be the first order of business.

Also likely to be up sooner rather than later are last year's leftovers: the partial birth abortion ban and product liability reform. On the latter, Lott expressed some hope of compromise, noting, "We think there are some points in the veto message that we can address."

Daschle was upbeat about the prospects for bipartisan cooperation, but said "there are a lot of potential wedge issues" that could produce partisan rancor, including campaign finance reform, the BBA and the partial birth abortion ban issue.

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