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The House last week unexpectedly voted to declare child poverty a national emergency and to add more than $1.3 billion to programs aiding poor children.

The Senate has yet to act on the bill, a "dire emergency" supplemental spending measure that would aid victims of several recent natural disasters as well as pay some bills from Operation Desert Storm.

The vote in the House, on an amendment offered by Representative Patricia Schroeder, Democrat of Colorado, was the latest skirmish in ongoing partisan maneuvering over budgetary issues.

President Bush almost certainly would veto a bill including such a large hike in domestic spending.

Under the budget agreement approved last year, the only way the Congress can increase spending without making offsetting cuts is if lawmakers and the President jointly declare an emergency.

As they did in debate on extending unemployment benefits, Democrats criticized the President last week for approving "emergency" spending for foreign aid and the war against Iraq, but not for domestic needs.

"This amendment will address the most dire emergency facing the nation today--the loss of millions of children to poverty, ill health, and school failure," Ms. Schroeder said.

The provision would add $1.2 billion to the current-year appropriation for Head Start, and would provide an additional $90 million for child immunization and $100 million for the Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

The 243-to-180 vote broke down mainly along party lines. Thirty Republicans voted for the amendment and 43 Democrats voted against it, including leading members of budget and spending committees.

The Senate last week approved legislation that would extend the life of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission for three years, and require the panel to issue at least one report each year on federal civil-rights enforcement.

The bill would authorize $7.16 million for the panel for the current fiscal year, slightly more than it received in fiscal 1991, as well as $1.2 million to pay for relocating its offices.

The bill's chief sponsor, Senator Paul Simon, Democrat of Illinois, said the commission had "taken some positive steps forward," but "has not been restored to its previous and historic status as the widely regarded conscience of the nation on civil-rights matters."

But Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, said the panel's critics--who contend that the Reagan Administration compromised its independence-are just angry because the panel no longer "reflects a monolithically liberal outlook."

House members were sharply critical of the panel's volume of work when they passed their counterpart bill last month. It would extend the commission's life by only two years, with an annual funding coiling of $6 million.

The Bush Administration had sought a 10-year extension, with an annual budget of $10.8 million.

Vol. 11, Issue 10, Page 24

Published in Print: November 6, 1991, as Capital Digest
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