Washington - A filibuster by Sen. Alfonse D' Amato,R-N.Y., over congressional hearings into the Whitewater controversy put legislation to reauthorize the airport construction grant program into a holding pattern yesterday.

But Senate leaders said they hope to clear the three-year airport grant bill for approval by today or Friday if they can reach a deal with D'Amato to drop the 44 amendments he proposed that would require Congress to hold hearings on President Clinton's involvement in the Arkansas land deal.

The measure to extend airport grant for three years, which is expected to pass the Senate quickly once it comes to a vote, would authorize $5.75 billion for airport construction grant through fiscal 1996. The House version, which was approved last October, would authorize $6.48 billion over the same period.

The Senate failed to approved the airport measure last year amid a controversy over airport fees and charges, but the current version appears to have eliminated those sticking points. Both airports and airlines support the bill as written, said Sam Whitehorn,chief counsel for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

The Senate is poised to act on the measure just a month after Congress approved a stop-gap measure that provided $800 million in grants through June 30.

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