White House considers a streamlined jobs bill

April 23, 1993|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Out of the ruins of President Clinton's economic stimulus package may soon emerge a slimmed-down spending package with a new name: the jobs bill.

Officials said yesterday that the new legislation, which may be introduced next week, would be aimed almost exclusively at creating jobs. An exception could be one of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's top priorities: $300 million for child immunization.

Also likely to be included would be the $1 billion summer jobs program sought by Mr. Clinton and $150 million for Small Business Administration loans, congressional aides said.

No final decisions on the proposal have been made yet, the aides said, making it impossible to know how much of the original $16.3 billion stimulus package the administration might try to revive.

Senate Republicans effectively killed the stimulus plan Wednesday, dealing Mr. Clinton the first major legislative defeat of his presidency.

Thus far, the only piece of the stimulus plan to win congressional approval was $4 billion to extend unemployment benefits. That measure was sent to Mr. Clinton for his signature yesterday after the House enacted it by a 301-114 vote.

"We're going to be consulting with congressional leaders right now and over the next few days and try to figure out the best way to get the president's initiatives passed," said George Stephanopoulos, the White House communications director.

The stimulus sequel might include some of the $3.2 billion the president wants to release from the highway trust fund to finance road and bridge construction.

Administration officials also listed waste water, community development projects and mass transit as elements of a second spending bill.

But Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, said he was dubious about any attempt to try to revive the ill-fated stimulus package.

"We made our effort and the effort was killed by a filibuster," the West Virginia Democrat said.

House Speaker Thomas S. Foley of Washington said he was confident, however, that parts of the plan would be enacted, "such as summer jobs and child immunization, and other aspects of the program, including, I hope, a broadened jobs program."

Before such a proposal is offered, the White House is likely to make sure that at least a few GOP Senate moderates would be willing to vote for it.

Administration officials confirmed that Mr. Clinton is thinking about withdrawing the $15 billion package of investment tax credits he had hoped would stimulate the creation of new jobs in private industry.

The proposal had already appeared doomed by the opposition of key Democratic leaders, who said they were not persuaded that the tax credits would achieve the desired result.

Dee Dee Myers, the White House press secretary, hinted yesterday that the president might give up the proposal. But Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, asked if the administration was considering withdrawing the credit, said, "No, we're not."

In the aftermath of the new administration's first big setback on Capitol Hill, members of Congress said yesterday that Mr. Clinton may have received a valuable, early lesson that can help him build the sort of political partnership he will need on the much tougher issues ahead.

One clear message for the former six-term Arkansas governor is that he can't treat the Congress like the legislature of a nearly one-party state. Putting together support for his programs will require at least some Republican help right from the beginning.

"I think the White House misunderstood that philosophical balance is more important around here than party balance," said Sen. James M. Jeffords, a moderate Vermont Republican, who was courted heavily by the White House after the battle was effectively lost.

Many Republicans say they intend to support the president on issues such as health care reform, Russian aid and key elements of his broader economic program.

But there's no question that some would like to make an already arduous legislative agenda even more difficult for Mr. Clinton to achieve.

Yesterday, Republican leaders of the House and Senate challenged Mr. Bentsen to produce details of Mr. Clinton's plan to raise income, energy and other taxes.

That may be the first shot in what Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole has said would be a major battle in the Senate Finance Committee, where the Democrats hold an 11-9 majority.

And Republicans also won't hesitate to use the filibuster weapon again on "high profile issues," said Rhode Island Republican Sen. John H. Chafee.

Mr. Chafee cited two such issues: a proposed ban on replacing striking workers and campaign finance reform, which Republicans think Democrats are crafting to promote candidates their own party.

NEWS CONFERENCE

President Clinton's second formal news conference, at 1 p.m. today, will be telecast live by NBC (WMAR-Channel 2), CNN and C-SPAN 1. CBS said yesterday that it will break into regular programming if content warrants, and ABC was undecided.

WBAL-AM (1090) will carry the conference live, via CBS Radio. National Public Radio is offering live coverage to affiliates, but neither WJHU-FM (88.1) in Baltimore nor WAMU-FM (88.5) in Washington had immediate plans to carry it.

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