March 30, 1998 in Nation/World

Highway Plan Attacked

Jim Abrams Associated Press

Rep. John Kasich, a leading Republican crusader for smaller government, chastised his party for endorsing a massive highway spending bill. If it passes in its current form, Kasich said Sunday, President Clinton should veto it.

Kasich, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Budget Committee who has expressed strong interest in running for president, also took issue with House GOP leaders for staging a vote on campaign finance legislation in a way that dooms it to failure.

Kasich on Friday led 10 other Republicans at a news conference where they decried GOP backing for the six-year, $217 billion surface transportation bill that the House is expected to take up and pass his week.

Sunday, on “Fox News Sunday,” Kasich acknowledged that “I think I’ll get hit by a cement truck” when he goes to the House floor to try to reduce the spending level. But he said he thought the president should, and will, veto it because it boosts highway spending by 42 percent over the last six-year program.

“This bill is a throwback to the old ways” of a more free-spending Washington, said Kasich, who fought unsuccessfully for a more modest bill when Republican leaders were negotiating the final amount. “This is one where we fell down.”

Kasich said the bill, with its promise of highway money for a large majority of congressional districts, is hard to resist. “I just hope we don’t get comfortable with governing in this way, because if we do, we wouldn’t be any better than the way the Democrats ran the place.”

Clinton has not issued a veto threat, but Saturday, in a statement from South Africa, he expressed concern about sacrifices for other programs. “We must strike a balance so that we do not allow one priority to squeeze out other critical investments such as education or undermine our fiscal discipline,” Clinton said.

The Senate bill, which passed earlier this month, has $214 billion for highway and mass transit programs but, unlike the House bill, does not set aside money for specific areas. The House bill has $9 billion for special projects, and critics have charged that some of these were doled out mainly for political reasons.

GOP leaders in both the House and Senate have said the extra money for highways will come from reducing spending levels in other programs, but they have not said where reductions will come from.

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