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Debt-Cutting Bill Stalls in Congress

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Washington--Before recessing last month, lawmakers failed to pass an omnibus $74-billion debt-cutting package that includes a provision requiring Medicare coverage for new school-district and other public employees.

It remains unclear whether the Congress will pass the bill after members return on Jan. 21.

The measure, HR 3128--the major deficit-reduction legislation crafted on Capitol Hill in the first session of the 99th Congress--also contained a permanent extension of the 16-cents-a-pack tax on cigarettes, but lawmakers passed a separate extension of that levy.

The bill also would cut $800 million from the Guaranteed Student Loan program through fiscal 1988.

The Medicare provision--considered an onerous one for school districts--would require coverage for all public employees hired after Jan. 1 of this year. The provision was retained from the House-passed bill by House-Senate conferees. The Senate version would have required coverage for all public employees, not just the newly hired, and thus would have been even more burdensome to districts.--jh

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