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House opposes flag burning again

For the fourth time in six years, the House on Tuesday endorsed a constitutional amendment to protect the American flag from desecration.

Once again, however, the effort to amend the Constitution for only the 18th time since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 faced likely defeat in the Senate.

The House voted 298-125 for the one-sentence article stating: "The Congress shall have power to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States."

If it also wins a two-thirds majority in the Senate and is approved by three-fourths of state legislatures, the amendment would overturn Supreme Court rulings in 1989 and 1990 that flag-burning and other acts of desecration were protected under First Amendment free speech rights.

House panel backs contraceptives coverage

A Republican-controlled House committee voted Tuesday to let federal workers' health-insurance plans continue covering prescription contraceptives, ignoring President Bush's proposal to halt the practice.

The House Appropriations Committee's overwhelming 40-21 vote, including 12 Republicans who voted "yes," would directly affect only 1.2-million female federal employees of childbearing age. Even so, the action was a setback for Bush and seemed to draw a line on how far Congress' anti-abortion forces can go.

Senate votes to negotiate over bankruptcy bill

The Senate on Tuesday demanded negotiations with the House to craft a bankruptcy overhaul bill that President Bush would be willing to sign.

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 82-16 to send negotiators its version of legislation making it tougher for people to erase credit card and other debt in bankruptcy court.

Bush, who supports such a sweeping overhaul of the bankruptcy laws, is opposed to a provision in the Senate bill capping at $125,000 the amount of home equity that debtors can keep out of the reach of creditors in court proceedings. The provision is designed to close a loophole in current law, the so-called homestead exemption, that allows wealthy debtors to shield their assets in luxury homes.

Landfills ruled out

in search for intern

As search teams again picked through dense park foliage Tuesday for clues in Chandra Levy's disappearance, D.C. police officials scuttled their plans to search the city's landfills. The ambitious search would have been too costly to mount _ nearly $32-million, a police spokesman said.

The decision to scale back was the first sign that the all-out police and FBI investigation into Levy's disappearance has run into budgetary constraints.

Police officials still intend a two-week search of four parks around the D.C. area and have largely completed a hunt through abandoned buildings _ 80 in one police district alone.

Teams of police cadets found more items at Rock Creek Park as they foraged through thick underbrush for a second day. In the Piney Branch Creek section of the park, officers found a white plastic bag containing a pair of running shoes and a utility knife.

A scattered haul of bones found on Monday was determined to be animal remains, the D.C. medical examiner reported.

Rumsfeld wants another extension on divesting

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is asking for a second extension on the deadline for divesting himself of millions of dollars in investments that could pose a potential conflict of interest, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Rumsfeld submitted a request for a 90-day extension to the Office of Government Ethics and the Senate Armed Services Committee because divesting himself "is proving to be a much more difficult row to hoe than anybody had hoped it would be," spokesman Rear Adm. Craig Quigley said.

Rumsfeld has already received one 90-day extension.

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