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Clinton Signs Bill Urging More Charter Schools

Politics: President cites measure as rarity in a bipartisan year. His other legislative priorities didn't fare so well in GOP Congress' hands, he notes.

October 23, 1998| From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — Hours after the 105th Congress adjourned, President Clinton on Thursday signed a law that encourages states to set up more high-quality charter schools. Clinton cited the legislation as a rare example of bipartisan cooperation in the GOP-controlled Congress.

"That is the right way to strengthen our public schools," the president said in brief remarks on the South Lawn of the White House.

Clinton blasted the Republicans for torpedoing his top legislative priorities. Five times he used the phrase "partisanship killed"--citing the rejection of such administration proposals as a patients' bill of rights, campaign finance reform, an anti-smoking measure, an increase in the minimum wage and tax breaks to pay for modernizing older school buildings.

"I hope when the next Congress convenes it will put progress ahead of partisanship in a way that this Congress has not done," Clinton said.

In its last major act, the Senate on Wednesday approved 65 to 29 a $520-billion budget package that combined all the 1999 spending bills that were unfinished when the fiscal year began Oct. 1. The House passed the bill Tuesday night.

The package, covering agencies under 10 Cabinet-level departments, had something for everyone. Democrats can tell their constituents about their plan for 100,000 new elementary school teachers and their success in protecting the environment. Republicans won big chunks of money for defense and anti-drug programs.

Among the many provisions in the bill:

* Haitians in the United States celebrated a new law granting residency to 40,000 of them who had faced deportation. Among them were thousands of Haitians picked up at sea as they attempted to reach the United States during their country's 1991-94 military dictatorship.

Many had been held in camps at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba and then granted admission to the United States because they were found to have a credible fear of persecution in their homeland, the poorest country in the Americas.

* Health insurance plans that cover mastectomies must also cover reconstructive surgery. "The bottom line is reconstructive surgery is not cosmetic; it's a necessary part of the continuum of care for breast-cancer treatment," said Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

* Up to $100,000 would be provided for hemophiliacs who contracted the AIDS virus in the 1980s because of tainted blood products. The Ricky Ray bill created a $750-million fund. It is named for a Florida teenager who died in 1992 at age 15 after a campaign for greater tolerance for HIV-infected people.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) released a 50-page "preliminary list of objectionable items" in the bill, from $250,000 earmarked for an Illinois firm to research caffeinated chewing gum to $1.1 million for manure handling and disposal in Starkville, Miss.

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