U.S. Senate panel struggles with anti-poverty plan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bill backed by President Clinton and House leaders that would use tax incentives to spur business investment in poor areas has been caught up in preelection wrangling over other tax breaks that lawmakers want inserted in the measure.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Roth Wednesday postponed committee consideration of the bill for a third time in little more than a week, saying he feared the legislation would turn into a huge "grab bag."
The community renewal and new markets bill offers a last chance before the Nov. 7 elections for senators to attach favored tax breaks to a measure that is likely to be signed into law.
Committee aides said Roth was concerned that the $38 billion, 10-year bill would balloon to several hundred billion dollars and topple under its own weight.
The Delaware Republican, who is in a tight reelection race, told reporters he hoped that after considering it for 24 hours, panel members would be ready to try to take up the legislation again Thursday.
"I think we are making good progress," Roth said.
The proposal to provide tax incentives to spur business investment and housing development in poor urban and rural areas was first put forward by Clinton and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert last May after the Illinois Republican congressman accompanied the Democratic president on a tour of areas left behind in a booming economy.
The White House says these areas represent "new markets" for businesses.
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved its version of the bill in July.
"The speaker remains committed to this," Hastert spokesman John Feehery said. "We are confident it is going to get done, but I cannot tell you how it is going to get done."
Measures added in the Senate
The Senate is not bound by rules in the House, where amendments to tax bills are restricted.
In an effort to accommodate senators, Roth incorporated into the bill the committee was to consider Wednesday about half of some 72 amendments proposed.
The measures added to the bill included farm, energy and conservation tax breaks as well as additional incentives for poor areas, a committee aide said.
The legislation also would give Amtrak, the passenger rail system, authority to issue $10 billion in bonds over 10 years and incentives to encourage development of high-speed Internet access in rural and selected poor urban areas.
Roth said he hoped committee members would agree to pass the bill without further amendment although they would be able to propose deleting provisions from it.
Some senators balked at the idea.
"I wasn't ready to give up my ability to offer amendments," said Sen. Phil Gramm, a Texas Republican. "I have that right under the Senate rules."
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