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News Briefs, part 1

Former Senators Unveil Tough Deficit-Reduction Plan

The Washington Post


A group headed by former senators Warren B. Rudman, R-N.H., and Paul E. Tsongas, D-Mass., Monday unveiled a tough deficit-reduction plan that would achieve huge savings by scaling back Social Security and Medicare benefits for middle- and upper-income families.

The long-term proposal is aimed at stoking a national debate over entitlement programs, which critics complain have evolved from a social and economic safety net for the poor and elderly to a patchwork of costly subsidies for wealthier individuals.

The budget plan and report issued Monday by the Concord Coalition, which advocates a balanced budget by the turn of the century, asserted that reducing entitlements to middle- and higher-income people is fair and represents "the only realistic way to get control of the deficit."

The plan, designed to achieve $251 billion more in deficit reduction than the anti-deficit package approved by Congress last month, would peg the level of Social Security payments, the value of Medicare coverage, farm payments, unemployment benefits and certain veterans benefits to income.

Families earning more than $40,000 a year would be subject to a sliding-scale, across-the-board means test designed to gradually reduce their benefits in proportion to overall income. The wealthiest families would receive no more than 15 percent of their original benefits under the plan.

The means testing and other entitlement reforms would save a total of $118 billion between now and 2000, according to the report. The plan also calls for $7 billion of additional defense savings; eliminating $19 billion in domestic programs, such as the space station and Superconducting Super Collider; limiting mortgage interest deductions, and $71 billion in additional tax revenue.

Christopher Admits U.S. Foreign Policy Failure in Bosnia

The Baltimore Sun


In a blunt acknowledgment of a foreign policy failure, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher said Monday that the United States had been unable to halt Bosnian genocide because it refused to send the forces necessary to end the war.

Christopher said that while the United States had done some significant things for the Bosnians, "I would be quick to say that they've not, by any means, been satisfactory."

His admission of failure comes as the administration struggles with its commitment to dispatch ground troops to help implement an impending settlement of the conflict.

That commitment faces trouble in Congress and with the British and French, who want the peacekeeping operation put under the United Nations, rather than North Atlantic Treaty Organization. President Clinton has said the troops would be placed under NATO command.

In recent statements, Clinton has appeared to waiver slightly on the commitment, saying he would seek congressional approval and telling an interviewer that the United States would be unlikely to send forces to implement a peace agreement in Bosnia until there was a time certain for pulling out of Somalia.

Senate Rejects Move To Derail Base Closings

Los Angeles Times


Marking an end to the third round of national military retrenchment, the Senate on Monday soundly defeated a move to reject a presidential panel's recommendations to close or realign 175 bases nationwide.

The 83-12 vote, on a resolution co-sponsored by California Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, was a last-ditch attempt to derail the base-closing plan that threatens to cost California some $4 billion in economic activity and 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.

The San Francisco Bay Area was hit severely with six large bases targeted for closure. The El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Orange County and the San Diego Naval Training Center were also ordered closed.

The decisive vote favoring the base closing plan was a foregone conclusion because most senators were concerned about the overall savings as U.S. military requirements decrease dramatically in the post-Cold War era.

The commission estimated that closing the bases will save about $4 billion from fiscal 1994 to fiscal 1999. Savings after the turn of the century will be about $2.3 billion annually.