Foley Calls Thrift Crisis Top-Priority Issue

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

NEW Speaker Thomas Foley says he will attempt to have the full House of Representatives consider this week the savings-and-loan rescue bill, which he puts at the top of his legislative agenda. Speaker Foley calls the $50 billion measure, originally proposed by President Bush, ``a difficult bill [which] will require strong bipartisan support in order to be enacted.'' The Senate approved the savings-and-loan package two months ago.

Mr. Foley says he wants to solve the savings-and-loan problem ``once and for all, if possible.'' Across the United States nearly 300 savings-and-loans institutions are believed to be insolvent.

In his first breakfast meeting with reporters since being elected Speaker, Foley gave reporters a list of major issues on which he wants Congress to act. He said that all are ``difficult problems,'' and indicated that no agreement now exists on how to solve them.

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Foley, a Democrat from the state of Washington, noted that during the last two years Congress completed action on most of the major issues where there was consensus.

Besides the savings-and-loan question Foley listed the controversial FSX airplane which Japan and the US are scheduled to develop jointly, health care for the estimated 37 million Americans who lack health insurance, long-term aid for the elderly and others who require nursing care, child care, clean air, and the budget deficit.

Add to these ``the problems of a growing underclass,'' the Speaker said. He ticked off several elements of the underclass problem: an educational system that fails to adequately serve the poor; shattered families; and young people who as a consequence have ``very little hope for a productive part in society.''

American education does not serve middle-income children well either, the Speaker indicated. And without change US competitiveness in the world economy ultimately will be threatened, he said. He noted that American schools no longer produce the world's best-educated children, with Korean children now outperforming those from the US in educational attainment.

Finally, the Speaker said, ``We've got to approach national security questions in a new and changing environment,'' given the changes Mikhail Gorbachev has brought to the Soviet Union's approach to world affairs.

``I would hope that the Democratic Party would be one that highlights these issues, and works constructively for their solution,'' Foley added. ``But the first thing we have to do is to get our attention back'' on substantive issues, and away from the increasing partisan criticism that has riven the House in recent weeks.

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