WASHINGTON -- The House yesterday neared approval of President Clinton's stripped-down jobs bill with $290 million for the Clean Water Act state revolving funds, while House leaders continued their efforts to round up wavering Democrats' votes for Clinton's deficit reduction package.
While putting the finishing touches on the $931 million jobs bill, only a shadow of Clinton's original $16.3 billion proposal, the House increased the wastewater treatment funding by $90 million at the request of several House Appropriations Committee members.
The committee on Monday had slashed the water funding by $200 million from the administration's $400 million request out of concern that the program was being paid for with cuts in energy assistance for the poor. The additional funding was partly paid for with a $49 million cut in a clean air program.
The bill does not include another $7.7 billion of infrastructure funding originally proposed by Clinton largely because of the requirement for offsetting cuts in other programs, House members said. Senate Republicans killed Clinton's initial proposal last month on the grounds that it was composed entirely of deficit spending.
The widespread move for greater spending restraint in Congress, which led to the defeat of most of Clinton's jobs program, also continued to cloud support yesterday for the President's $344 billion deficit reduction package.
The deficit reduction bill, scheduled for a House vote today that is expected to be very close, contains $275 billion of tax increases, $15.5 billion of user fees, and about $53.5 billion of spending cuts over the next five years. Excluded from the bill are an additional $150 billion of spending cuts to be attained through cuts in congressional appropriation bills.
To ensure that the cuts are achieved, the House Rules Committee was expected late last night to incorporate into the budget bill caps on both direct and appropriated spending programs.
Nevertheless, Republicans and conservative Democrats continued to attack the budget bill as being weighted too much in favor of tax increases.
"By now it should be clear that President Clinton's reliance on increased taxes rather than spending cuts have placed the entire budget plan in jeopardy," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee. He called on the House to defeat the Clinton plan and start over with bipartisan budget negotiations.
While House leaders continued to predict victory for the plan, they conceded that over 30 Democrats had still not decided how to vote and that they were short of the 218 votes needed to pass the bill. Clinton lobbied extensively for the bill yesterday, summoning several representatives to the White House and telephoning a number of others members.
"Everybody's nervous," said House majority leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., who reminded reporters that the House in 1990 defeated a major deficit reduction plan that had been negotiated between congressional leaders and the Bush administration despite predictions of victory.
"This is hard to do. We never assumed this would be easy to pass," Gephardt said. "Everybody's got a different set of problems with the bill," but leaders have been urging Democrats to put the "national interest" over their individual districts' narrow interests.
Gephardt said he and other House leaders were wrestling with last-minute snags yesterday in their compromise plan to include entitlement caps in the budget bill. He said there was still "basic agreement" between conservatives and liberals over requiring congressional action on legislation to cut or pay for spending in excess of the caps each year.
But "sticking points" had developed over the timing of the legislative action and whether the caps should be adjusted each year to take inflation and other economic and technical changes into account.
Rules Committee Chairman John Moakley, D-Mass. described the last-minute hitches in the entitlement plan as "working out the bells and whistles."
Another issue that House leaders were puzzling over yesterday was whether to offer Texas billionaire Ross Perot's budget plan for a vote on the House floor today. Perot, who has criticized the Clinton budget as too heavy on taxes, generally received praise for producing the only comprehensive, detailed alternative.
A leadership aide said Perot was "somewhat positive" about the possibility of a vote on his plan, which includes a 50 cent-a-gallon gas tax increase instead of Clinton's board-based energy tax, lower taxes on the rich, and deeper cutss in Medicare, farm supports, and other entitlement programs.