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Pressure to Pass Budget Angers Some Lawmakers : Politics: Freshmen and female members who backed the plan may face constituents' discontent. Yet other ranking colleagues voted against it.

August 08, 1993|SAM FULWOOD III | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Instead of sharing in President Clinton's celebration of passage of a deficit-reduction bill, some House freshmen and female members are looking back with resentment over being pressured for their support while some ranking colleagues with stronger political bases at home voted against the plan.

Some lawmakers pointed to White House pressure on Rep. Margorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-Pa.), who switched her first vote and supported the President's package when it emerged from a House-Senate conference committee, even though the first-term legislator may have to suffer political consequences back in her GOP-dominated district.

Appearing Saturday on CNN's "Evans and Novak" program, Margolies-Mezvinsky admitted that her support of the compromise budget package would not impress many in her conservative suburban Philadelphia district, but she declined to predict whether it would cost her a seat in Congress.

"I think that's yet to be seen," she said.

But many on Capitol Hill said Margolies-Mezvinsky should never have been put in such a position in the first place.

One congressional staffer said Saturday that as a first-year legislator who barely won her district last fall, she risked her political life for the Democrat-backed legislation while some leading House members were able to cast votes against the package with no danger to their seats.

"Many of (the women and freshmen) think it was very selfish of the leaders, whom everybody up here calls the 'old bulls,' to place those who are most vulnerable in such a position," said the staff member, who asked not to be identified.

"There was a lot of discussion and a lot of anger immediately after the vote," the staff member said. "There was a sense that the Administration and House leadership should have taken into account that these representatives were from marginal districts, and (they) should have done a better job of protecting them."

Rep. Eva Clayton (D-N.C.), president of the Democrats' freshmen class, told the Washington Post on Friday that some ranking House members, such as Rep. G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery (D-Miss.), had supported the plan earlier but switched to vote against it.

"That didn't go over well at all," Clayton was quoted as saying.

The congressional staffer said many of the female and freshmen legislators have already decided that they intend to vote against Montgomery retaining the chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee because of his vote. Montgomery could not be reached for comment Saturday.

In her interview Saturday, Margolies-Mezvinsky defended her actions, saying: "This was my decision. This was my vote. If we fall on the sword, we fall on the sword."

She said she was prepared to vote against the budget package when she entered the House chamber but received a call from Clinton, who promised to visit her district to talk about cutting entitlement programs.

Margolies-Mezvinsky said she told the President she would vote for the bill "if you can assure me that we're going to address entitlements in a meaningful way."

Even after cutting that agreement with Clinton, Margolies-Mezvinsky waited until the last minute to cast her vote for the budget. She admitted that she had explained to Clinton that she would only vote for his package if it became necessary to save the legislation.

"Well, I said to the President: 'I will be there if you need me,' " she said. "And I was told that I was needed, and I voted for it."

In his weekly radio address Saturday, Clinton made no mention of the deals struck to secure the budget package. Instead, he basked in the afterglow of the Senate's approval of his budget--after Vice President Al Gore cast the tie-breaking vote.

"It's a bright sunny day in Washington--in more ways than one," he said. "The political fog that has surrounded this town for so long is at long last lifting."

Clinton ignored the razor-thin closeness of his victory and said his Administration is now poised to work with Congress to reform health care and restructure welfare policy.

"We'll keep moving as fast as we have in these first six months of the Administration, and keep taking new ideas to the American people for making our country better and putting our people first," he said.

After failing to block the President's budget late Friday, Republican senators continued battling the Administration on other issues, holding up final votes on the national service legislation and Clinton's nomination of Joycelyn Elders as surgeon general.

The national service bill, which calls for a three-year, $1.5-billion program that will allow students to exchange community service work for money for college tuition, is a key Administration objective.

It had passed both the House and Senate but the conference committee's version of the bill, which cleared the House, was not reviewed to the full satisfaction of some GOP senators. The legislation is expected to pass after those senators have a chance to examine it in the fall.

The Elders confirmation, however, ran aground once again as GOP senators, opposed to her support for sex education and condom distribution in the schools, continued to delay the vote.

With time running down before recess, Sen. Wendell H. Ford (D-Ky.), the No. 2 Senate leader, finally told his colleagues they would have to consider Elders' confirmation in September.

"This is nothing more than a delay, it's not a defeat," said Avis LaVelle, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Also Friday, the House voted 344 to 60 to cut the $17-million honey subsidy program. GOP representatives joined with the Democrats to help the President keep a campaign promise to eliminate the subsidy program, which Clinton had derided as an example of government waste.

The Senate had passed a $71-billion Agriculture Department spending bill that contained the honey subsidy. The legislation now goes back to the Senate for another vote--absent the honey money.

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