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Briefs (left)

Senate Approves Budget Cuts,
Alaska Drilling

By Robert Pear

The Senate on Thursday narrowly approved a sweeping five-year plan to trim a wide range of federal benefit programs and to allow drilling for oil and natural gas in a wilderness area of Alaska, increasing the chances that the energy industry and Alaska officials will achieve a long-sought goal.

The budget bill, the most ambitious effort to curb federal spending in eight years, was approved by a vote of 52-47. Five Republicans crossed party lines to oppose the measure, while two Democrats voted for it.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said, “This bill is a reflection of the Republican Congress’ commitment to pursue a path of fiscal responsibility.” It will, he said, reduce the deficit and save roughly $35 billion over the next five years.

But Democrats said the savings would disappear and the deficit would increase if Republicans carried out their plan to cut taxes by $70 billion later this year.

The Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said: “The Republican budget reflects the wrong values. It is an immoral document. It harms vulnerable Americans to provide another round of large tax breaks for the elite of this country, special interests and multimillionaires.”

E-Mails Link Tom Delay
To Indicted Lobbyist

By Philip Shenon

Rep. Tom DeLay asked Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist, to raise money for him through a private charity he controlled, an unusual request that led the lobbyist to try to gather at least $150,000 from his Indian tribe clients and their gambling operations, according to newly disclosed e-mails from Abramoff’s files.

The electronic messages from 2002, which refer to “Tom” and “Tom’s requests,” appear to be the clearest evidence to date of an attempt by DeLay, a Texas Republican, to pressure Abramoff and his lobbying partners to raise money for him. The e-mails do not specify why DeLay wanted the money, how it was to be used, or why he would want money raised through the auspices of a private charity.

“Did you get the message from the guys that Tom wants us to raise some bucks from Capital Athletic Foundation,” Abramoff asked a colleague in an e-mail on June 6, 2002, referring to the charity that the lobbyist controlled. “I have six clients in for $25K. I recommend we hit everyone who cares about Tom’s requests? I have another few to hit still.”

House Delays Vote on U.S.
Treatment Of Terror Suspects

By Eric Schmitt

The House Republican leadership has delayed a vote on a proposed ban against cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners in American custody in what Democrats say is an effort to spare Vice President Dick Cheney an embarrassing defeat.

House Democrats this week had planned to offer a motion to endorse language in a military spending bill, written by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would prohibit abusive treatment of suspected terrorists. The motion would instruct House negotiators to adopt McCain’s precise language, which the Senate approved last month, 90-9. The White House has threatened to veto any bill containing the provision, saying it would restrict the president’s ability to fight terrorism and protect the country.