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Tax bill likely faces veto

The Senate on Thursday sent President Bush a $27-billion tax bill with urban aid and expanded Individual Retirement Accounts _ setting up a likely pre-election veto _ and then adjourned for the year.

Hours after passing the tax legislation, the Senate sent the White House a stack of other bills on voice votes _ including measures to make armed auto hijackings a federal crime, raise the ceiling on FHA mortgages and aid Desert Storm veterans experiencing environmentally related illnesses.

The House is scheduled to meet in "pro forma" session today, but leaders in both parties have said it will adjourn, too, with no more action on legislation this year.

Although the tax bill includes several provisions Bush wanted, it would be financed by selectively raising taxes.

"Bitter medicine comes with the sweet," said Sen. Bob Packwood of Oregon, senior Republican on the Finance Committee. "There is more good medicine than bad medicine in this."

Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, chairman of the committee, said the bill is an "honest, good-faith effort" to meet Bush's objections.

Nevertheless, said Senate Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas, "The president will not sign this bill."

The Senate approved the bill by a 67-22 vote. Florida Sens. Bob Graham and Connie Mack both voted for the bill. It had cleared the House on Tuesday by a 208-206 margin.

On what probably was the final work day for the 102nd Congress, the Senate also completed action on significant energy legislation emphasizing conservation and alternative fuels and setting efficiency standards for light bulbs and other electrical devices.

The bill was passed by voice vote after Democratic Sens. Harry Reid and Richard Bryan of Nevada failed to strike a provision that they contended would weaken health standards for a proposed nuclear-waste dump in their state.

A bill with major impact on water users in 17 Western states was approved, 83-8.

Sen. John Seymour, R-Calif., tried unsuccessfully to change a section diverting some of California's Central Valley water from farm to recreational and industrial uses.

The House, meanwhile, met for less than 10 minutes Thursday as Republicans made good their promise earlier this week to block any further action on legislation there.

That left the fate of dozens of measures in doubt.

Several senators faced a choice of either accepting House versions of their pet bills or seeing them die.

Tax bill

Highlights of the legislation:

Size: Tax reductions and spending increases costing about $27-billion over five years, financed by targeted tax increases of the same amount.

Major tax benefits: Incentives for job creation in 50 enterprise zones in inner cities and poor rural areas; liberalized Individual Retirement Accounts; repeal of luxury taxes on yachts, furs, jewels and planes; renewal of several tax breaks that expired in June, including those for moderate-income first-time home buyers and businesses that hire the disadvantaged.

Revenue increases: Individuals with income not subject to withholding and corporations would have to make larger quarterly payments of estimated income tax; the deduction for job-related moving expenses would be restricted.

Spending programs: About $3-billion for improving foster care, keeping families together; treating drug abuse among pregnant women; and helping families adopt children with special needs, such as a physical handicap.

Prospects: President Bush is expected to veto the bill because of the tax increases.

_ Associated Press

Energy bill

Here are key provisions:

Streamlines licensing of commercial nuclear power plants, allowing a "one stop" permit for construction and operation.

Establishes new energy efficiency standards for lights, electric motors, shower heads and other products.

Calls upon states to develop building codes; and banks to develop mortgages that promote energy efficiency.

Creates independent power producers to compete with utilities in electricity production, resulting in lower retail prices.

Requires federal and private fleets to buy more vehicles that run on fuels such as natural gas or on electricity; also tax breaks for the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles.

Expands the government's Strategic Petroleum Reserve and makes it easier to use reserves to counter sharp price increases caused by supply interruptions.

Provides tax breaks for development of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.

Gives independent oil and gas producers a $1.1-billion tax break over five years.

Turns the government's uranium enrichment program over to the private sector.

_ Associated Press

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