News In Brief

Congress is expected to pass a bill this week to keep the government operating while Democrats and Republicans try to sort out their budget differences. Congress has sent President Clinton just four of 13 annual spending bills for fiscal 2000, which begins Friday. Clinton vetoed a $792 billion GOP tax cut last week, setting the stage for a showdown over tax and spending priorities.

House Republican leaders may try to add tax breaks for long-term-care insurance and health insurance for the self-employed to legislation regulating managed-care companies, congressional sources said. The effort is seen as an attempt to leave a GOP stamp on a bill granting patients the right to sue their HMOs, a measure the White House favors and that appears headed for passage over the opposition of many Republicans.

Top US and Chinese trade negotiators are to confer in Washington today on China's bid to join the World Trade Organization. China must win US support to join the 134-member group, which sets global trading rules. The administration must then persuade a skeptical Congress to support the pact. The president of the US Chamber of Commerce said he was confident an accord was within reach and that Congress would eventually support it.

Democrats won't serve on a Senate task force reviewing recent Justice Department investigations, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont said. The task force, headed by Sen. Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania will look into questions about the handling of probes into the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas; into campaign-finance abuses; and into alleged Chinese spying.

Former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley has a narrow lead over Vice President Al Gore in the New Hampshire race for the Democratic presidential nomination, a new poll indicated. The Time/CNN survey found Bradley with support from 44 percent and Gore with support from 41 percent of 516 likely Democratic-primary voters. The survey results were announced a day after New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) endorsed Bradley, saying Gore could not win a general election.

The House approved a bill that would move most class-action lawsuits to federal courts. The measure passed on a mostly party-line vote, 222 to 207. The measures GOP supporters said it would curb the practice of attorneys shopping around for state courts that give the most generous awards. Democrats said it would make it harder for individuals to challenge powerful defendants and further burden federal courts struggling with too many cases.

An appeals court struck down laws in three states that banned a type of late-term abortion, calling the statutes unconstitutional. A panel of the Eighth US Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled on cases from Nebraska, Arkansas, and Iowa involving what opponents call partial-birth abortion. The three states are among 28 that have adopted late-term abortion bans since 1995; courts have blocked or limited enforcement in 19 of them.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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