Final spending decisions up to GOP leaders

Although the House adopted a fourth continuing resolution Thursday to keep the federal government running through next Wednesday, Appropriations Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla., served notice that "I may be reluctant to offer another CR."

Young said appropriators have all but finished their work for the year and are waiting for Republican leaders to make the final decisions on the most politically sticky issues holding up the fiscal 2001 Foreign Operations, Commerce-Justice-State and Labor-HHS appropriations bills.

Reacting to the statement of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott-R-Miss., comment that the next CR should give Congress "enough time to complete our work while putting pressure on appropriators," Young said, "Appropriators have been trying to keep pressure on certain leaders in the Senate to get their decisions made for more than a month now."

Young said the only outstanding issue for appropriators on the Commerce-Justice-State spending bill concerns authorization the Senate is seeking--and the House opposes--for four projects outlined in the Conservation and Reinvestment Act.

House Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said GOP leaders must resolve six other issues, including immigration amnesty for Hispanics, several telecommunications riders and a provision blocking the government from paying for tobacco litigation.

House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Sonny Callahan, R-Ala., reported that he met Wednesday night with subcommittee ranking member Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other members of their panel, but could not agree on so-called Mexico City restrictions on international family planning groups that receive U.S. aid, or on a final amount to devote to debt relief to poor countries.

Callahan said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm, R-Texas, are negotiating with the administration on the issue of IMF gold sales. Callahan said Clinton's threat to veto the Foreign Operations spending bill if it includes last year's Mexico City compromise, which Republicans support, has left his panel "kind of at a stalemate at this point."

As for the Labor-HHS appropriations bill, bipartisan congressional negotiators were scheduled to sit down with Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew and other administration officials Thursday afternoon. A major sticking point there is a school construction bond proposal the administration wants.

Republican leaders object to imposing Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements on projects undertaken with the money from the bonds for fear it will drive up construction costs and erode the value of the bond initiative. The measure is just as likely to end up on an emerging tax bill, GOP sources indicate.

Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., a cosponsor of the bill, urged her GOP colleagues in a letter Wednesday to drop their objections. "Let me be clear--payment of Davis-Bacon wages in a projects that receive federal funding is nothing new," Johnson wrote.

But many Republicans still see a precedent in having Davis-Bacon imposed as a direct result of a tax credit--the device for leverage the bonds under the proposal. The House Thursday passed, 386-24, the VA-HUD appropriations bill and sent it to the Senate.