Senate to push spending bills

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Tuesday that the Senate will first take up the fiscal 1999 Interior appropriations bill this week, even with the possibility that Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., may offer their campaign finance reform bill as an amendment.

The campaign measure could face a vote Thursday, although National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said today he expects the Senate again to defeat it.

Once work on the Interior bill is wrapped up, the Senate will have just two FY99 spending bills remaining-the District of Columbia and the Labor-HHS measures-and Lott said he believes the Senate is now "on track to do two to three [appropriations] conference reports a week."

Lott added that if Democrats engage in any "game playing" with the D.C. appropriations bill, he will pull it from floor consideration and wrap it into any continuing resolution that may be necessary for the new fiscal year.

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Michael McCurry Tuesday indicated the administration believes Congress would be forced to shoulder the blame if squabbles over appropriations bills result in a government shutdown this fall.

"The American people have been through this before, and they know that when Congress acts to work with the president to do the nation's business, we can get the nation's business done," McCurry said. "When that fails to happen, and the government shuts down, then people have generally looked to the Congress for explanations of why that's the case."

Lott also told reporters, "I think we will have a tax cut package with or without a budget agreement." Lott said Finance Committee Chairman William Roth, R-Del., "expects to move in the next two weeks" on legislation to extend a series of expiring tax breaks, known as "extenders," used primarily by businesses. Lott added he thinks that "at a minimum we should do extenders, the marriage penalty" and maybe health insurance deductibility for the self-employed.

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