Mood Swings

Congress shook hands with President Clinton early Thursday, passing the bipartisan budget deal, and then took a shot at him with its other hand, passing a supplemental spending bill Clinton has promised to veto.

"This place has mood swings," Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, a member of both the Appropriations Committee and the Budget Committee, said following the two votes. "Thank goodness the [day] is over because we don't know what would happen later."

Congress had little trouble passing either measure, although earlier Thursday, Republicans were concerned they might not have the votes to pass the supplemental bill in the House. The Senate passed the budget resolution, 76-22, and the supplemental spending bill, 67-31. The House passed the budget resolution, 327-97, and the supplemental 220-201.

The votes on the budget conference report were somewhat anticlimactic after months of haggling over the details of a deal. However, the votes on the supplemental spending bill were tense, as Republicans insisted on retaining provisions Clinton has said he does not like.

The supplemental spending bill still contains a provision for an automatic continuing resolution in case Congress does not complete work on the annual appropriations bills and a plan that bans the Census Bureau from using sampling in the 2000 census.

It is clear what happens with the budget next, committees will have to comply with reconciliation instructions, finding savings in entitlement programs and producing a tax cut measure. But it is less clear what happens with the supplemental spending bill, much of which would be used to repair flood-damaged North and South Dakota and Minnesota.

Republicans have implied if Clinton vetoes the supplemental bill, they will strip the provisions he does not like out of the measure and send him a clean supplemental spending bill.

But Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., contradicted that notion late Thursday. "The census language and the anti-government shutdown language will be in the next bill," he said.

Lott did say that when the measure goes back to Clinton, "it won't be the same," but was not more specific. Lott emphasized that the president "doesn't get things just the way he wants."

House Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston, R-La., said if Clinton vetoes the legislation, he expects the GOP leadership to have developed a new strategy by Tuesday.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said that while Republicans do not believe the president will veto the supplemental, Congress has "several options" to respond to a veto.

DeLay said Congress can send him the same bill again, strip the CR language out and sit on the bill, send Clinton a stripped down bill, or leave the bill intact and sit on it.

DeLay said the census language, which Republicans say could affect 24-26 House seats, is not negotiable.

Livingston said, "I don't believe that either of these provisions are worth a fight," adding it is important that the money be distributed to flood victims.

"Lott's got to run the Senate. My job is to run the Appropriations Committee in the House," Livingston added.

Democrats were angry that Republicans defied the president's threat.

Following passage of the conference report on the supplemental, Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said, "The only thing to do is to play the silly game to its conclusion."

Responding to Lott's threat to again send Clinton a bill he would likely veto, Pomeroy said: "I think Congress lost on this exchange. If they think they're going to get ahead in the next stage, they're just flat out wrong."

House Appropriations ranking member David Obey, D-Wis., was more blunt.

"Evidently, as far as [Republicans] are concerned, it's time to hold their breath until they turn blue again," Obey said, adding that Lott "is a new leader, but he's rapidly learning how to turn blue like the old Republican leaders."

Obey said that while Republicans are attempting to paint a more moderate picture, they usually revert to their confrontational side.

"They can't help themselves," Obey said.

Lisa Caruso also contributed to this story.

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