News In Brief

By only a three-vote margin, the House approved a Republican-drafted plan to add a prescription-drug benefit to Medicare - but the White House said the legislation would be vetoed in present form. Its prospects also were iffy in the Senate, although Finance Committee Chairman William Roth (R) of Delaware said his panel has been working on bipartisan legislation. The House measure, which passed 217 to 214, would rely on both private insurance companies and federal subsidies and would cost about $40 billion over five years. Some Democrats staged a brief walkout in protest before the vote.

The Senate, meanwhile, reapproved legislation that would force secretive political groups to disclose their financial donors and spending. The 92-to-6 vote was necessary to detach the legislation from a stalled bill and speed it along to President Clinton, who appears ready to sign it. The House passed the measure Wednesday.

"This opinion will be studied intensely," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde said of the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a Nebraska law banning so-called "partial birth" abortions. GOP lawmakers are expected to rework their legislation in light of the ruling and are likely deliver a new bill to President Clinton before this year's presidential elections. Clinton vetoed legislation on the matter in 1996 and 1997.

Clinton was to name former California congressman Norman Mineta as commerce secretary, administration officials said. Mineta, who would be the first Asian American to be a Cabinet secretary, would succeed William Daley, who plans to run Al Gore's presidential campaign. Mineta, a Democrat, served 21 years in Congress.

Although the Federal Reserve declined to raise short-term interest rates Wednesday, many economists predicted the central bank would do so as early as August. They forecast a quarter-point or even half-point hike because of concerns the economy won't have slowed enough to keep inflation in check.

A wildfire burned out of control on the Hanford nuclear reservation in southeastern Washington, within miles of areas contaminated by radioactivity. At least 25 homes were destroyed and 7,000 people were evacuated, although some already had been allowed to return. Hanford, established as part of the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb during World War II, is now involved in cleaning up radioactive and hazardous waste.

California's insurance commissioner resigned amid allegations he used millions of dollars in official settlements with insurers to boost his own career. Chuck Quackenbush was one of only two Republicans elected to statewide office in California.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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