Congress is continuing to make headway on the year-2000 computer problem.

On Wednesday, the House approved 236 to 190 a bill to limit lawsuits stemming from year-2000 errors.

Supporters, including financial services trade groups, said the bill would curb frivolous suits and excessive damage awards. As a result, they said, businesses could focus more on preventing technical problems and less on mounting costly legal defenses.

Opponents, which include the Clinton administration, said the bill goes too far and would have the opposite effect. Removing the fear of litigation would rob businesses of the incentive to fix problems and consumers of the right to seek redress, they said.

The White House, which spelled out its demands in a May 11 letter to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., has threatened to veto the legislation.

Attention now turns to the Senate, which postponed action on a similar bill April 30 because of partisan disagreements. Debate on that bill could resume as early as next week.

Meanwhile, efforts to ensure that credit unions can meet the year-2000 cash demands of fearful customers appear to be paying off.

On Monday, House and Senate conferees drafting an emergency spending bill for Kosovo and Hurricane Mitch agreed to attach a credit union cash provision.

If it remains, the provision would let credit unions borrow up to $20.7 billion from the Central Liquidity Fund during fiscal year 2000, up from $600 million. The fund is roughly the credit union equivalent of the Federal Reserve's discount window.

A variety of players support the move, including the Fed, the National Credit Union Administration, House Banking Chairman Jim Leach, R-Iowa, and House Banking members Marge Roukema, R-N.J., and Bruce F. Vento, D-Minn. The Treasury Department opposes the move.

The full House and Senate could take up the spending bill as early as Friday but will more likely do so next week.

Though the credit union cash provision is not considered especially controversial, the White House has threatened to veto the emergency spending bill unless certain other provisions unrelated to Kosovo or Hurricane Mitch are stripped out.

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