Most government agencies would be required to conduct official business only in English under a bill approved by a House committee Wednesday and sent to the full House for a vote.
The bill would declare English the federal government's official language and bar federal employees from using other languages in most of their written communications.
"It is the English language which unites us _ a nation of many different immigrants _ as one nation," said Rep. Bill Goodling, R-Pa., chairman of the Economic and Education Opportunities Committee.
The bill, passed 19-17 along party lines, requires officials to conduct citizenship ceremonies in English and bars the government from printing tax forms and other information in a foreign language.
Democrats said it threatens Constitutional guarantees of free speech, due process and equal protection.
A timetable for getting clear information to Americans on the safe use of prescription drugs was approved Wednesday by the Senate.
The agreement over the so-called MedGuide plan freed the Senate to approve, 97-1, a $54.3-billion spending bill for the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and other agencies. The bill must be reconciled with the House-passed version, which spends $1.2-billion less.
The $54.3-billion spending bill also affects how new meat safety rules will be implemented and how fresh chicken and almost-frozen chicken will be labeled.
"The nation spends as much to cure the illnesses caused by prescription drugs as we spend on the drugs themselves," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.
The Senate agreed to an FDA timetable calling on pharmacists to make prescription information available to 75 percent of patients by 2000.