President Clinton canceled a nationally televised speech on behalf of China trade legislation after being told by congressional Democrats that such a high-profile appeal could cost him support on Capitol Hill.
"We became convinced it would be better to keep the decibel level low and to work with our undecided members one on one instead of using the megaphone of television," said Tom Keaney, a top aide to Rep. Robert Matsui, D-Calif., the Democrats' chief vote-counter on the bill.
The president abruptly scrapped tonight's five-minute Oval Office address while he was on a fundraising trip to Philadelphia and Chicago on Friday.
"We indicated to the White House that a speech at this point would do more harm than good," Keaney said in an interview Saturday. "We wanted to keep the noise down. We just felt a speech would be counterproductive."
The House is expected to vote late Wednesday or Thursday. Supporters are claiming momentum and believe they are close to the 218 votes needed for passage. But lawmakers on both sides agreed the vote could be very close.
The bill would open China's markets to more U.S. goods, and end 20 years of annual reviews of China's trade status. The bill is supported by the business community and opposed by labor, environmental and some veterans' groups.
Clinton wants heart
devices in federal offices
WASHINGTON _ President Clinton said Saturday he wants heart-starting defibrillators placed in federal office buildings and airplanes to help save the lives of people who suffer heart failure.
The emergency devices, which use electric shock to start a heart in cardiac arrest, are already becoming available at shopping malls and businesses. Clinton said one recently was used to save a life at the White House.
"The key of survival is the speed of response," Clinton said in his weekly radio address.
"When victims receive that shock within a minute, there's a 90 percent chance of resuscitation. When it takes 10 minutes, the odds fall to less than 5 percent."
Clinton said he will direct the Department of Health and Human Services and the General Services Administration to write guidelines for putting defibrillators in all federal buildings. To support the effort, three manufacturers will donate the devices.
Clinton also announced that the Federal Aviation Administration will soon require airlines to carry defibrillators on all domestic and international flights. Eight major and six regional airlines either carry or have made a commitment to carry defibrillators, he said.
Airlines will have three years to buy the defibrillators and develop training programs.
Senator blocks payment
to the United Nations
WASHINGTON _ In a foreign policy dispute with the Clinton administration, a Republican senator who oversees State Department spending is blocking the government from paying $368-million owed to the United Nations for four peacekeeping missions.
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., believes it is unfair for U.S. taxpayers to pay for part of the U.N. operations in Congo, Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone, a spokesman said Saturday.
The money was intended for other purposes by the State Department, but later was set aside to help pay for the peacekeeping efforts and therefore required Gregg's approval, Edmund Amorosi said.