Disaster aid a bit closer House leaders OK larger Senate bill

August 06, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- The leadership of the House of Representatives has decided to accept the larger, $5.8 billion aid bill for Midwestern flood victims passed by the Senate on Wednesday, congressional officials said yesterday.

Last week the House passed a $3 billion flood-aid bill. Normally, a House-Senate conference would be called to reach a compromise between the two bills, but the House leadership decided to move to approve the plan with the Senate's dollar amount. They hope to send an aid package to President Clinton before the August recess, scheduled to begin this weekend.

Dan Sallick, spokesman for Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, the Democratic majority leader, said House leaders would turn to the flood bill as soon as action on the budget was finished. Final passage of the flood bill is expected today, he said.

As the scope of the flooding has increased, so has the aid bill. Mr. Clinton initially requested $2.5 billion during a visit to Des Moines three weeks ago. The Senate bill includes an additional $1.3 billion requested by the president as well as more aid for farmers.

The debate on the bill in the Senate was much less contentious than that in the House, where Democrats and Republicans argued over how to pay for the assistance and whether it should come from the general budget. In the Senate bill, the source of the money is uncertain, though it will not be from the general budget.

Senators from farm states were concerned that under the House bill, farmers would receive only 21 cents for every dollar of damage suffered.

"In Iowa, agriculture is the basis of our own economy, so we can't zTC afford to have that kind of drastic cut in disaster payments," said Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, whose amendment increased the amount to 42 cents.

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