Squabbling Over Herman

The tension in the Senate over President Clinton's proposed executive order on labor contracts for federally funded projects neared the boiling point Tuesday, as Minority Leader Daschle threatened to hold up floor action and GOP leaders demanded that language defunding the executive order be added to the FY97 supplemental appropriations bill.

The increasing threats came as Senate GOP leaders and the administration are negotiating changes to the proposed executive order that would encourage federal and local governments to use labor agreements for federally funded construction projects.

GOP and other opponents argue the agreements place non-union contractors at a disadvantage. Because of their objections, Senate Republicans have held up a confirmation vote on Labor Secretary-designate Alexis Herman.

Daschle Tuesday said Democrats have run out of patience waiting for Herman to be confirmed when GOP objections are not about Herman, but about the executive order.

"The Herman nomination is being held captive to an agenda, the likes of which we really don't understand," Daschle said. "Until we get some clarification ... I don't think there's much opportunity to move forward with other legislation."

Meanwhile, aides said the GOP leadership was behind an effort Tuesday in the Senate Appropriations Committee to add language to the supplemental bill that would prohibit the Labor Department from spending money through the end of this fiscal year to enforce the proposed executive order.

Sen. Lauch Faircloth, R-N.C., had been considering adding similar language to the supplemental bill when it reached the floor; he reportedly wanted to wait to see if an agreement with the administration could be reached before floor action.

But a GOP aide Tuesday said the Senate leadership asked Stevens at the last moment to include the language in the supplemental because negotiations with the administration are not going well.

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