Clinton, Congress in U.N. Standoff

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Bill Clinton can't wait to get his hands on the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act. The legislation, which offers to send the U.N. an $800 million dues check but carries an antiabortion rider, sneaked through the Senate by a two-vote margin Tuesday. Now the White House is urging: Bring it on. "We hope they will get the bill up here quickly," said Clinton spokesman Barry Toiv, "so the President can veto it and we can move on... to work on a bill that he can sign."

Fat chance. The antiabortion elements in Congress -- led by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), whose specialty is destroying U.N. payment bills with such clauses -- aren't going to give up that easily. Trent Lott drew his own line in the sand by telling Clinton there would be no more chances to pay the U.S. arrears this year. "This is it," said Lott, "and everybody needs to understand that." To drive the point home, GOP aides say, they intend to stall on the paperwork and play a high-stakes game of chicken. If Clinton doesn't sign, he risks losing an IMF funding bill, plus the embarrassing spectacle of having U.S. General Assembly voting rights withdrawn at the end of the year. But never mind international politics -- it's an election year. And a standoff will make for great speeches this fall.