Congressional Republicans are dropping their insistence for a ban on the use of federal dollars for developing or approving drugs that can induce abortion, such as the French pill RU-486.
Even so, party leaders have a daunting list of problems to overcome in their struggle to finish must-pass spending bills for the new fiscal year.GOP leaders were hoping the House would approve a $60 billion agriculture bill Friday, after they agreed to erase the proposed ban on federal work on abortion pills. The White House and many Democrats were pleased with the removal of that provision, but Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said President Clinton would veto the legislation anyway because its $4.1 billion in emergency aid for farmers is too low.
On Thursday, House-Senate bargainers reached agreements on global warming and public housing issues, raising hopes that Congress would vote next week to approve the $93.5 billion measure for veterans, housing and environmental programs containing those provisions.
But no sooner had they struck that compromise than the Republican-controlled House ignored GOP leaders' pleas and refused to debate a separate, $27 billion measure financing the Treasury Department and smaller agencies. The 294-106 vote was cemented by a rare alliance of Democrats and conservative Republicans opposing provisions concerning the Federal Election Commission, contraceptives for federal workers and Haitian refugees.
The action occurred as Congress sorted through the remaining nine spending measures needed to keep federal agencies operating in fiscal 1999, which began Thursday. With legislators having completed just four spending bills so far, Clinton had already signed a stopgap measure allowing agencies to function through Oct. 9.