Last-Minute Bills

Besides the must-pass FY97 omnibus appropriations bill, a number of other measures are awaiting Senate action today, including parks, airports and securities reform legislation.

President Clinton Sunday issued a statement signaling his approval of the stripped-down parks conference report passed by the House 404-4 Saturday night and now pending in the Senate. "I am pleased that the House voted last night to approve legislation that would improve our management of the national parks and other federal lands," Clinton said Sunday. "This bill includes my top priorities for parks legislation ... At the same time, the bill deletes almost all of the provisions of the earlier conference agreement that the administration had found objectionable." Clinton cited as favorable provisions to improve the management of San Francisco's Presidio and help acquire the Sterling Forest in New York and New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the Senate also is slated to take up the securities reform conference agreement approved by the House Saturday night on a voice vote. Similar unanimous approval is expected in the Senate. The bill is being hailed by the mutual funds industry because it would move regulation of mutual funds and stocks traded on exchanges to the federal level, exempting them from having to comply with 50 different state authorities.

The House and Senate -- which until late Friday appeared to be at an impasse -- finally cut a deal that preserved the investment adviser proposal by Senate Banking Securities Subcommittee Chairman Phil Gramm, R-Texas, with two additions from the House: It would authorize $20 million in FY97 and FY98 above current SEC funding to pay for increased enforcement of investment adviser laws, and it would establish a consumer hotline for inquiries about investment advisers. The additional authorization is not appropriated in the FY97 budget, staff said, but supporters remain hopeful it may be provided through an SEC "reprogramming" request or supplemental legislation.

On another front, Senate Majority Leader Lott is expected to try to take up the FAA authorization conference report, which the House passed last Friday 218-198. The legislation -- which reauthorizes the federal airport grants program -- must be approved by the start of the new fiscal year at midnight tonight. A number of Democratic senators had placed holds on the bill over a controversial labor provision they say would infringe on the rights of FedEx employees to organize. However, because the FAA conference agreement is considered a "privileged" item, Senate GOP leaders still can bring it up, a Senate Commerce aide said Sunday.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska -- a senior Commerce member and a strong supporter of the FAA bill and of the labor provision holding up its passage -- Saturday threatened retaliation over the Democratic holds. He said he would place holds on every Democratic bill that comes up in the Senate's waning hours if the FAA bill is not passed. "We're going to stay in session until this bill is passed -- even if it is Dec. 31," Stevens said. Nevertheless, the Commerce aide expressed optimism the bill would in fact pass before the deadline.

Another prospect for Senate action is a stand-alone measure -- sponsored by Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Calif. -- that the House passed 254-175 last Wednesday in addition to the immigration bill. The Gallegly measure would allow states to deny free public education to illegal immigrant children enrolled after July 1997. However, should it pass, the proposal faces a certain veto by Clinton.

The Senate could also take a re-vote on overriding Clinton's veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. The Senate last Thursday fell nine short of the two-thirds majority required to override the veto, but Lott switched his vote from "yes" to "no" and moved for reconsideration, raising the possibility of a re-vote.

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