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Congress hopes today is the day

As the Congress lurched toward tonight's hoped-for end of its session, Senate and House negotiators sent their compromise budget to the House floor for approval. Senators and representatives are anxious to return to their home districts because elections are only 10 days away, and many of them fear they have much explaining and campaigning to do.

House leaders expected the full House to approve the budget package, albeit narrowly, by early today, with the Senate voting on the accord sometime later today. But passage was by no means certain. However, Bush administration officials said that there was no doubt the president would sign the new measure.

The five-year budget plan falls $10-billion short of the $500-billion deficit-reduction goal that the two sides had set in an earlier accord, which had been worked out at a 4{-month-long summit between the White House and congressional leaders.

Even so, it contained the largest tax increase in U.S. history, designed to hit hardest at the rich. And it included substantial cuts in spending on agriculture and other government benefits programs.

The package nearing completion contained a jump in the federal gasoline tax to 14 cents a gallon from 9 cents. New taxes also would be aimed at alcohol, tobacco, furs and costly private planes.

The ballooning costs of Medicare would be reined by $44-billion over the next five years. Most of the reductions would be in payments to doctors and hospitals.

The accord came as the Treasury disclosed that the federal deficit for fiscal year 1990, which ended Sept. 30, jumped to $220.4-billion, the second-worst showing since the record $221.2-billion deficit recorded in fiscal 1986.

Economists predicted that the budget deficit for the current year, fiscal 1991, would soar to the $275-billion range, even with the deficit-reduction plan that is expected to be signed into law this weekend.

In other developments:

House and Senate negotiators completed work on a foreign aid bill that would forgive Egypt's $6.7-billion military debt, but would sharply cut U.S. aid to El Salvador.

Congress has passed and sent to President Bush defense bills that would keep alive the "stealth" bomber and cut spending on "Star Wars."

The House approved the clean air bill, the first change in air pollution laws in 13 years. The requirements are expected to have widespread effects on society.