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Senate filibuster defeats Clinton stimulus package; NLC lauds efforts of administration and Congressional backers.

Senate Republicans last week succeeded in filibustering President Clinton's economic stimulus plan to death. The White House and Senate Democrats dropped the proposal and agreed to pass just the $4 billion extension for unemployment benefits.

The defeat of the President's plan to help revive local economies and pay for at least some of the cost of unfunded federal mandates on local governments left in place the gridlock that has strangled initiatives to address community priorities over the last several years. The defeat came after critical attacks by Senate Republicans of the Community Development Block Grant program and the integrity of local elected officials.

Extended negotiations between Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine) and Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) last Thursday evening failed to produce any agreement other than an extension of the expiring unemployment benefits.

The revised bill passed the Congress and was expected to be signed into law by the President after The Weekly went to press. All provisions directly affecting jobs and local economies were stripped from the package Thursday night.

The failure of the bill appeared certain to limit any initiatives to assist the nation's cities in addressing high unemployment and youth crime rates before this summer begins. The end came as the fourth and final attempt to cut off the Republican filibuster failed Thursday on a 56---42 vote. Sixty votes are necessary to shut off debate. All Republicans and Sen. Shelby (D-Ala.) voted against cloture.

NLC President Don Fraser expressed deep thanks and appreciation to President Clinton and the House and Senate Democratic Leadership for their efforts on behalf of local leaders:

"On behalf of all of our membership, I want to express appreciation and gratitude for the efforts of President Clinton, House Speaker Tom Foley (D-Wash.), Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D-Maine), and Senate.Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) to enact a plan to help us revive our local economies, to put people back to work and to give kids a chance to have a real job and a real learning opportunity this summer. To us, jobs are critical and the most positive alternative we can offer in our communities.

"In December, our membership-Republicans, Independents, and Democrats--voted unanimously to urge a partnership with the federal government to create a plan to revive local economies and invest in our own communities in a postCold War economy. The President and the Congressional Democratic leadership met with us, on a non-partisan basis, to ask for our input in shaping this plan.

"We are grateful for the genuine concern and interest shown by these leaders. We regret the loss of our joint initiative to change the way the federal government works and relates to local leaders and governments. But we are pleased at the effort to work together with our leadership, to listen to and respect our views. I hope we can move on to other issues in a constructive spirit."


The unsuccessful vote to shut off the filibuster came after lengthy negotiations between the White House and Senate Republican Leader Robert Dole failed and after divisions between Republican Senators squelched any serious effort to compromise. Sen. Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, failed to obtain Republican support for his proposed $8-$9 billion Republican alternative, which he said would include:

* $4 billion for unemployment benefits

* $3 billion for highways

* summer job and immunization funding

* $845 million in EPA waste-water funding

* and mass transit capital grants;

According to sources on Capitol Hill, the Republicans rejected Hatfield's proposed compromise behind closed doom, because they felt that the Hatfield offer was too attractive to Democrats. It might have gained enough support to pass. Therefore, it was rejected, and an alternative was substituted on Tuesday that Republicans were certain was unacceptable to the Democrats.


For city and town leaders, the defeat particularly reflected Republican Senators attacks on the Community Development Block Grant program. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.) made clear that no compromise that included any funding for CDBG would be acceptable.

Sen. Repubhcan Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said, "The CDBG funding is particularly offensive to us, and it will be an embarrassment to nearly everybody because of the way" the money is spent on such inessential projects as ice skating rinks and swimming pools.

While the Republicans lacked votes to make any changes or cuts in the President's bill, they were able to kill it. While Senate Republicans failed in repeated attempts to cut the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, they used it to undermine the President's entire stimulus program. Some contemptuously referred to the program as "Mayors' walk-around money."

CDBG is a Republican program created by former President Richard Nixon to ensure that the elected officials closest to the people could make the decisions about the most effective way to meet local housing and economic development needs. Ironically now it is Senate Republicans, including former city elected officials, who appear to be saying that cities and towns cannot be trusted to invest these funds wisely.

For cities, the antagonism against CDBG does not augur well for the proposed modest increase proposed in the President's budget for the program ($4.2 billion, a $200 million increase over current year funding) or for real hopes for federal help to finance unfunded federal mandates. It strikes a blow against the credibility and integrity of local elected officials.

Congress will now turn to the President's longer term deficit reduction and investment program, coming at it with exacerbated partisan divisions. The process will be especially difficult, because so many programs will be pitted against each other.

There will be ever greater pressure on local leaders to demonstrate the enduring value of the program to the nation.
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities
Author:Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Apr 26, 1993
Previous Article:Administration takes stimulus plan on the road before Senate vote.
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