Senate votes to override Bush family-leave veto

September 25, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The Senate, taking a political swipe at

President Bush, voted 68-31 yesterday to override his veto of the family leave bill -- the first time in Mr. Bush's 3 1/2 -year term that Democrats in the chamber have been able to muster the necessary two-thirds majority.

Democrats immediately boasted that the bipartisan action -- in which 14 Republicans voted in favor of the override -- showed that Mr. Bush was "isolated" on the question and had lost his credibility for using family values as an issue in the presidential campaign.

But strategists conceded that the Democrats' victory is likely to be short-lived, since the House is expected to sustain the president's veto when it takes up the override question Wednesday. Support of two-thirds of both houses is needed to overturn a veto.

The bill, which Mr. Bush vetoed Tuesday night, would require companies with 50 or more employees to grant their workers up to 12 weeks of leave either for medical reasons or so they can care for a newborn baby, a newly adopted child or a sick family member. While companies would not be required to pay a worker's salary during the period, they would be required to maintain health care benefits.

The family leave bill has been turned into a political football as Democrats, who revived the bill in late summer to counter Mr. Bush's then-new emphasis on the family values issue, have sought to embarrass the president over his opposition to the legislation.

The measure is one of about a half-dozen pieces of social legislation that Democratic congressional leaders have targeted for possible override votes in the midst of the fall campaign. Others include the cable television bill and abortion rights legislation.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Albert Gore, a Tennessee Democrat who stayed in Washington for the late-morning vote before heading out on the campaign trail again, said the balloting demonstrated "that this country is ready for new leadership with new ideas."

"It is impossible for President Bush to talk about family values and veto the Family Leave Act," he said. Mr. Bush proposed an alternative plan Tuesday that would provide tax credits of up to ++ $1,200 an employee for businesses that give workers time off for family emergencies, but Democrats contended that the proposal would be inadequate and said their own legislation was needed.

It was not immediately clear how close the House might come to mustering the needed two-thirds majority. Speaker Thomas S. Foley, a Washington Democrat, told reporters that the override effort would be "difficult," but insisted that House members "are going to have a vote."

The House fell well short of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn a veto when it approved the legislation initially in November, and House leaders are not expected to persuade enough members to change their votes to make up the difference. The vote that day was 253-177.

Rep. Patricia Schroeder, a Colorado Democrat who was a major sponsor of the family leave legislation in the House, said that proponents were seeking to delay the vote until next week in hopes that they could muster more support "if we have a little more breathing space" before the vote.

Meanwhile, both sides began intensifying their efforts to line up more votes in the House. Mr. Gore said yesterday that he already had spoken to House Democrats who were considering supporting the bill. Mr. Bush was expected to telephone lawmakers to seek their support.

The House has mustered a two-thirds majority on four of the nine separate pieces of legislation on which it has attempted a veto override, but always has been thwarted by the Senate, which until yesterday's action had voted consistently to sustain the president.

Fifty-four Senate Democrats and 14 Republicans voted yesterday to override Mr. Bush, while three Democrats and 28 Republicans sided with him.

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