WASHINGTON - The Senate's top Republican yesterday urged President Bush not to reject pending urban aid tax legislation, as the chamber dragged through a second day of debate on the measure.
"This is a bill we should pass, and a bill that should be signed by the President," Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., said during the debate that tax leaders said is likely to continue through tomorrow. He pointed to a variety of items in the measure, such as its enterprise zone provisions.
For the municipal market, the bill contains, provisions that would renew the tax exemption for mortgage revenue bonds and small-issue industrial development bonds and extend them through Sept. 30, 1993. The two tax breaks and about 10 others expired June 30.
The bill would also expand the use of tax-exempt bonds in enterprise zones and simplify a host of tax-law bond curbs.
President Bush has yet to say whether he will sign the urban aid bill. Both the House version and the measure pending in the Senate contain revenue-raising provisions, which would appear to go against the President's statement last month that he would "never, ever" accept another tax increase.
On Wednesday, Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., urged the President to make his intentions known about the bill.
Sen. Dole then went a step farther yesterday, calling on President Bush to accept it.
Lobbyists said the senator's statement was unusual because, as Republican leader, he would normally be expected to follow the administration's wishes.
Aside from Sen. Dole's statement, most comments by the Senate leadership focused on chiding senators for having prepared more than 95 amendments to the bill. Senate leaders warned that if their colleagues intended to offer every amendment, the urban aid bill would never pass the Senate.
Sen. George Mitchell, D-Maine, the majority leader, noted that by midday yesterday the Senate had disposed of only five amendments. "It's obvious, at the rate at which we are proceeding," he said, "that it will be difficult to finish the bill by Saturday night."
In insisting on their amendments, senators are endangering core provisions of the bill, including the extensions of expiring provisions, said Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Tex., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
"They go down the tubes if this system of ours doesn't work," he said. "There's no way we can consider 100 amendments."
Between today and tomorrow, the Senate could take up a number of different amendments that would affect the municipal bond market, according to a list of possible amendments that has been circulating around Capitol Hill.
The proposals include one by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., to spur issuance of environmental infrastructure bonds and another by Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, to loosen restrictions on small-issue industrial development bonds. In addition, Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., could offer an amendment. that would ease bond curbs to aid Florida in rebuilding after Hurricane Andrew, according to Florida officials. So far, only one amendment related to municipal bonds has been added to the bill. On Wednesday, the Senate agreed to change the proposed termination date for the expiring provisions to Sept. 30, 1993 from Dec. 31, 1993. The change is part of an amendment offered by Sen. Dole that would extend a tax credit for using nonconventional fuels.