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Senate's welfare overhaul is passed

Votes of area members of Congress on key issues last week.

In one of the most significant votes this year, the Senate on Tuesday passed 74-24 legislation that would reshape the nation's welfare programs. Twenty-three Democrats joined 51 Republicans in support; 24 Democrats and one Republican, Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina, opposed the measure.

The bill would replace the federal entitlement program with block grants administered by the states. The measure would also limit assistance to five years and require welfare recipients to find employment within two years.

In the past year, Congress has twice passed proposals to overhaul welfare, but President Clinton vetoed both bills. During debate on the current plan, moderate Republicans joined Democrats in an attempt to water down the bill and make it more acceptable to Clinton.

Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said he hoped to craft a compromise version with the House and send the bill to the White House before Congress' August recess.

"If Clinton signs it, then the country will be the beneficiary. If he doesn't, then he can explain why," Lott said.

Democrats opposed to the bill said it unfairly targets children and spells harm for needy families.

Voting to end the federal guarantee of welfare: Mack (R).

Voting against: Graham (D).

CAMPAIGN FINANCE: The House dealt a solid blow to campaign finance reform on Thursday when it rejected 259-162 an attempt by the GOP leadership to change federal rules governing political fund-raising. Sixty-eight Republicans joined all voting Democrats and one independent to defeat the measure.

The bill would have required House members to raise most of their campaign funds within their district and set new contribution limits for individuals and political action committees. It also would have required unions to obtain permission from members when using union dues for political purposes.

The legislation's rejection revealed deep fissures within the GOP ranks over how to change the funding of campaigns. Republicans voting against the bill opposed it for a variety of reasons. Moderate Republicans criticized its language on unions, while many conservatives argued the system does not need to be fixed.

Democrats argued that the bill would only worsen the current system. They said it would give greater influence to the wealthy and put more money into politics.

Voting to overhaul campaign financing: Bilirakis (R), Canady (R), Goss (R), McCollum (R), Mica (R), Miller (R), Scarborough (R), Stearns (R), Weldon (R).

Voting against: Brown (D), Gibbons (D), Johnston (D), Meek (D), Thurman (D), Fowler (R), Ros-Lehtinen (R).

Not voting: Peterson (D), Young (R).