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News Briefs

Strengthened Yeltsin Pledges To Revitalize Russian Government

Los Angeles Times

Back in fighting form after months of illness, President Boris N. Yeltsin celebrated his return Thursday to the hurly-burly of politics with a tough state-of-the-nation speech, promising Russians sweeping economic reforms, honest government and a Cabinet shuffle.

Appearing 16 weeks after heart surgery and eight months since his last major speech, Yeltsin, trim and poised, told Parliament in a nationally televised speech that Russia "is still struggling in a flood of problems. We haven't managed to reach the far bank yet."

Yeltsin, who always has preferred the sweeping gesture to niggling details of day-to-day governance, gave no specifics as to how he would fulfill his latest promises - most importantly, paying the long overdue salaries and pensions of millions of angry Russian workers.

Instead, he tongue-lashed those in his government, blaming others for blocking Russia's long economic reform program. He accused unidentified officials in his administration of a multitude of sins, including laziness, corruption, irresponsibility and inefficiency.

Presenting himself as the champion of the long-suffering public, protecting Russians from the bureaucrats who had tormented them in his absence, Yeltsin listed the economic and social problems facing this country: inefficient tax collection, corruption and fraud.

Lawmakers Propose Compromise Plan for Probe of Fund Raising

The Washington Post

Faced with choosing between a wide-ranging probe of campaign fund-raising practices and its own desire for self-preservation, the Senate on Thursday found a way to have it both ways.

Breaking a weeks-long impasse, Senate Republicans proposed that a high-profile Governmental Affairs Committee investigation into political fund raising cover congressional as well as presidential campaigns. The plan was approved by the Rules and Administration Committee on a party-line vote and is scheduled for Senate floor action next week.

The scope of the probe, Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., conceded, is "not as wide as the world" but it would unite quarreling factions within the GOP behind a trimmed-back $4.3 million budget for the investigation.

The compromise means that the same painful spotlight that focuses on allegedly illegal activities by Democrats on behalf of President Clinton's re-election will shine on any illegal transgressions by members of the House and Senate. But it also means the probe will not delve into many legal campaign practices, such as unregulated "soft-money" contributions to political parties and unrestricted political spending by tax-exempt groups.

Lott Urged to Tone Down Calls for Panel to Investigate Inflation

The Washington Post

House Republican leaders Thursday urged Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., to tone down his calls for creation of an independent panel to revamp the formula used to adjust federal benefit programs for inflation, warning that Lott could be leading the party toward a political disaster in next year's election.

To buttress their argument, House Majority Leader Richard K. Armey, R-Texas, circulated copies of 1995 Democratic Party internal documents turned over to Congress last week showing how to attack Republicans for proposing to contain the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security and other government benefit programs.

Lott has joined with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan in calling for formation of the panel, while House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Armey as well as House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., are strongly opposed. At a news conference Thursday, Lott said Clinton risked jeopardizing a balanced-budget deal this year unless he moved quickly on the commission.

"It is absolutely essential that the president embrace this," Lott told reporters. He said Clinton has "just a very few days to step up seriously" and if he doesn't then "the moment will be gone."