"Another Spending Bill"

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WASHINGTON: Unable to reach agreement on a broad spending plan to fund government agencies and departments for the last six months of fiscal year 1996, Congressional Republicans passed another stopgap measure to keep government operations going through April 24. The measure, passed by Senate on a 64 to 24 vote and the House on a voice vote, awaits President Clinton's signature. The bill provides funds to operate dozens of agencies and departments. It also provides the $198 million requested by President Clinton to repair war damage in Bosnia. The White House has declined to say whether President Clinton will sign the measure but Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle said the President told him he will. "If it's Friday, it must be time to pass another spending bill," says TIME's Karen Tumulty. "The Federal Government is just limping along and the closer we get to the election, the incentive to reach an agreement will diminish." Congressional negotiators will continue working on the broader spending bill, but Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Mark Hatfield says the short-term bill will remove the pressure to get the broader bill passed. The elusive spending bill would spend roughly $160 billion to fund federal departments and agencies in the final six months of fiscal year 1996. The administration is seeking $5.1 billion for education, high technology and other programs on President Clinton's agenda. The President also wishes to delete provisions in the bill allowing increased logging on federal lands and easier development of wetlands in California's Mojave desert. Congress has met the President halfway, restoring nearly $4 billion to the spending bill. But the White House is still demanding an additional $1.8 billion for Head Start, veterans medical care and other programs. Meanwhile, Clinton is expected to sign another piece of legislation that will raise the debt ceiling, averting a first-ever federal default. The measure prevents a government shutdown by extending federal borrowing authority through September 1997, but at a cost of raising the national debt ceiling to $5.5 trillion.