Tide of Legislation Flows Freely in Congress

GRIDLOCK, begone! Legislation is now streaming - nay, flooding - through Congress.

The House is taking up a bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday that would not only extend the length of time that people can collect unemployment benefits but would also freeze the salaries of members of Congress. The House already passed the $5.7 billion extension of unemployment benefits, which is the first part of President Clinton's economic-stimulus package. The Senate, however, unexpectedly linked the issue to a freeze on the congressional cost-of-living increase. Both are expected to pass easily and to be signed by President Clinton this weekend.

While unemployment benefits are on the front-burner, the House quietly passed legislation on Wednesday to revise the 1939 Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from becoming involved in political activities.

The bill - a version of which was vetoed by President Bush - gives the nation's 3 million federal employees the right to organize fund-raisers and publicly endorse candidates, as long as they do it on their own time. But it retains the ban on federal workers running for federal and partisan state offices, meaning they can run for their local school board but not for Congress. Bucks for Bill

Hey brother, can you spare a dime for the government? That cry may soon be heard on street corners around the United States, as many Americans get personally involved in the battle against the ever-expanding federal budget deficit.

Already one North Dakota teenager has donated $1,000 toward the nation's $4.2 trillion debt. Then the Eskimo Pie Corporation, smelling a sweet opportunity, said it would give the government 5 cents for every box of its chocolate-coated vanilla ice cream snacks on a stick sold between March 8 and April 4.

Now bake sales are proliferating. Fifth-graders at an elementary school in Ohio reported raising $278.50 this week by peddling trays of Bill Brownies, Gore Goodies, Capitol Hill Cookies, Tipper Toffee, and Oval Office Oatmeal. Inspired by their example, the staff of the Divide County Journal, a weekly newspaper in North Dakota, decided to hold a bake sale tomorrow and send the proceeds to Washington.

If you want to add your two-cents' worth, send donations (noting that the money is for debt-reduction) to: Bureau of the Public Debt, Dept. G, Washington, D.C., 20239-0601. Every billion dollars helps! Play ball!

An old tradition is getting a new twist this year - or perhaps we should say a new spin.

The president won't be the only one throwing out an opening-day pitch in a major league ballpark. Hillary Rodham Clinton is also getting into the act.

Mrs. Clinton, who grew up in Park Ridge, Ill., and is a lifelong Cubs fan, will toss out the first ball for the Chicago Cubs on April 5. The same day, her husband will perform the same duty for the Baltimore Orioles.

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