House passes massive spending and benefits bill

The House narrowly passed the conference report on the fiscal 2001 Legislative Branch and Treasury-Postal spending bills Thursday by a mostly party line vote of 212-209.

The package heads to the Senate for likely passage early next week.

A spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said Democrats do not plan to block consideration of the conference report, despite being angry that Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. prevented them from offering controversial gun amendments to the Treasury- Postal measure by scheduling no floor debate on the bill. Although Daschle last week said he was "very disappointed with the process," he also conceded, "These are bills that need to get done. I'm inclined to be supportive on the substance."

House Treasury-Postal Subcommittee ranking member Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Thursday he did not think President Clinton could sign the conference report because of funding shortfalls for the IRS, courthouse construction, computer security and counter-terrorism initiatives.

But he also acknowledged that no veto has been threatened, while Treasury-Postal Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz., told reporters, "We've never gotten any statement from the White House that this wasn't satisfactory."

The conference report combines spending measures for the $2.5 billion Legislative Branch and $15.6 billion Treasury-Postal bills and contains several measures affecting federal employees, including:

  • A rollback in retirement benefits contributions for federal employees and members of Congress.
  • A one-year extension of the pilot program that allows agencies to subsidize child care costs for lower-income employees.
  • A requirement that all current and newly hired workers in federal child care centers undergo criminal background checks.
  • A requirement that all agencies report to Congress on when and how they use personal information, or "cookies," collected from individuals visiting government Web sites.

    The package does not include a controversial provision to put a moratorium on implementing ethics rules for federal contractors, which the GOP calls "blacklisting."

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