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GATT-Implementing Legislation Hits Speed Bumps In The Senate

The timetable for getting the GATT Uruguay Round through Congress became even more clouded Tuesday.

Byline: JOYCE BARRETT



WASHINGTON -- The timetable for getting the GATT Uruguay Round through Congress became even more clouded Tuesday, as Senate leaders chided the administration for trying to pack too much into the implementing legislation.


Senate Finance Committee chairman Daniel P. Moynihan (D., N.Y.) also complained in a floor speech that the Administration had yet to provide replacement funding for the tariff revenues that will be lost under GATT. He warned that no action would be taken on GATT until such a proposal was presented.


"The administration neglects to put forward the most necessary provisions, but it has suggested it would like other elements added to the legislation," Moynihan said.


He noted that GATT could be delayed because of the administration's proposals that it be expanded to include, among other things, NAFTA-like benefits for Caribbean countries.


"If the administration is concerned that the Congress might not get to the Uruguay Round, then why is it proposing to slow down consideration with these additional, most controversial matters?," Moynihan said.


Moynihan also announced that his panel, which has responsibility for devising the Senate's version of GATT implementing legislation, has tentatively set a meeting for July 19 to begin work on its draft, but it won't be held if there's no funding proposal from the White House.


Estimates vary from $10 billion to $14 billion on the amount that would have to be raised, either in new revenues or spending cuts.


Meanwhile, Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.), chairman of the Senate Trade Subcommittee, told reporters that the panel on Thursday was to meet with the administration to hear its funding proposal. However, he also echoed the concerns expressed by Moynihan that the administration had proposed too many additions to the implementing legislation for it to succeed. A proposal that fast-track negotiating authority be extended for seven years was too broad, Baucus said, asserting that it should be shortened.


"It's just too much to swallow," he said.


The House Ways and Means Committee plans to devote July 13 and 14 to completing its version of GATT-implementing legislation. Once the House and Senate have completed their recommendations, they will work to reconcile their plans before sending one to the White House. Because under fast-track rules, implementing legislation cannot be amended but can only be approved or rejected by Congress, the administration likely will submit the congressional bill as the final implementing plan.


There were other mixed signals as to when this would take place. A House staffer close to the trade debate said that early Tuesday, the administration was thinking about a delay of GATT consideration until after Labor Day because it wanted health care completed first.


U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, on Capitol Hill Tuesday, insisted, however, that the administration still wanted the House and Senate to complete work on GATT before it leaves for its August recess.


Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell (D., Maine), did not include GATT in a legislative schedule he outlined on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. Asked if GATT could be considered before the Senate left in August, Mitchell said he had not decided and has not discussed its scheduling with the administration.