News In Brief

The Republican-led House was poised to endorse President Bush's $1.94 trillion budget for next year in the first vote by either chamber of Congress on the spending plan. The measure lays the groundwork for a 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut, steers $2.3 trillion toward debt reduction, and limits spending for many programs to 4 percent more than this year - half the spending growth approved last year. Democrats readied their own budget with a smaller tax cut, more debt reduction, and more money for prescription drugs and schools.

The Senate rejected 60 to 40 a proposal that would have limited, not banned, unrestricted "soft money" contributions to political parties, handing a victory to advocates of a major overhaul of campaign-finance laws. Supporters of a bill sponsored by John McCain (R) of Arizona and Russell Feingold (D) of Wisconsin turned back a plan by Chuck Hagel (R) of Nebraska that would have limited the donations to $60,000 a year.

Senators also voted 54 to 46 to at least double the amount any individual may contribute to a political candidate. A proposal by Fred Thompson (R) of Tennessee would raise the limit on such donations to a candidate during an election from $1,000 to $2,500. It would also double the aggregate limits on individual donations to $50,000 a year. The White House said Bush will sign a reform bill if it passes.

Amid loud protests, California regulators approved an electricity rate hike of up to 46 percent to head off blackouts this summer and keep the state's two biggest utilities from going bankrupt. The increases are the biggest in California history and could affect 25 million people.

A federal judge ordered University of Michigan's law school to stop using race as a factor in admissions, ruling that its affirmative-action policies violate the Constitution. The case was brought by a white woman who claimed she was denied admission because less-qualified minorities received preferential treatment. Judge Bernard Friedman dismissed the argument that affirmative action "levels the playing field." He instructed the school to consider only merit in admissions. Another court recently ruled Michigan's use of race in undergraduate admissions is legal.

The number of immigrants in the US has tripled to 30 million in 30 years, but their relative standard of living has decreased, a study by the Center for Immigration Studies showed. More than 40 percent of immigrants lived in or near the poverty line in 2000, compared with 26 percent in 1970. Immigrants also were less likely to be homeowners than natives, it found.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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