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Tentative Deal on Abortion, UN Dues

November 15, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton’s decision to yield to conservatives’ demands for limits on some U.S.-subsidized abortion activities overseas won him the nearly $1 billion he sought for United Nations dues.

But the tentative agreement between White House and congressional officials, brokered Sunday night, may also have angered some allies among his fellow Democrats and the abortion-rights community.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., an abortion-rights supporter, said the deal ``is not a compromise. It is a capitulation.″ But in a statement, she stopped short of saying she would vote against it, saying of Republicans, ``They gave the president no choice. We have to pay our dues to the U.N.″

The two sides struck the deal after about four hours of bargaining at the Capital. It would remove one of the toughest hurdles in the two sides’ quest to settle their budget dispute this week and adjourn Congress for the year.

``The basic parameters are tied down,″ House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told a reporter about the abortion and U.N. issues. Hastert flew in from Illinois late Sunday to join the talks.

Asked about settling overall budget differences, he said, ``We’re in a position where we can get it done. It’s going to take hard work.″

Hastert said he had spoken with Clinton on Saturday night, before the president left on a 10-day trip to Europe.

The two sides agreed that for fiscal 2000 _ which runs through next Sept. 30 _ the law would forbid federally supported groups from lobbying for liberalized abortion laws overseas.

The president would be able to waive the restriction, but if he did, there would be a reduction in the $385 million the United States plans to spend this year for foreign family planning programs. The exact amount of the cut was not immediately available.

In exchange, $926 million would be provided to pay dues the United States owes the United Nations.

The plan was described by Hastert and administration and congressional officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A White House official confirmed the tentative deal but said disagreement remained on an administration effort to let the International Monetary Fund expand its role in providing debt relief to poor countries. The official said there were other unresolved questions, such as the timing of the U.N. payments.

Although the agreement to limit overseas abortion activities would affect relatively few groups, it could be a major political victory for anti-abortion forces, and could help cement conservative support for a final budget deal.

Clinton revoked a longtime ban on overseas abortion advocacy shortly after taking office in 1993, and for years had fought off conservatives’ efforts to reinstate it. An agreement on a ban, even if the president can waive it, could anger abortion-rights groups and many congressional Democrats.

``I’d find it disappointing in the extreme if this pro-choice president is the person who took what was only a policy during the Reagan-Bush years and wrote it into statutory law, the waiver notwithstanding,″ said Susan Cohen, assistant policy director for the Alan Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-rights research group.

``Once it’s written into statutory law, it would be very hard to undo,″ she said.

One White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, sought to minimize the effects of the agreement, saying, ``The practical impact on money for these organizations is minor.″

Such an agreement could even have repercussions on Vice President Al Gore’s presidential campaign, and on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s expected candidacy for the Senate from New York.

In recent days, Clinton and several administration officials had emphasized the importance of getting money for the unpaid U.N. dues, which have built up over several years.

Unless the United States pays a portion of the dues by Dec. 31, it would lose its vote in the U.N. General Assembly. Its seat and vote on the Security Council would not be in jeopardy.

The abortion and U.N. issues are two of the final disputes the White House and Congress must work out to resolve their budget fight.

Republican leaders hope to solve all remaining issues this week so Congress can approve the last five spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and adjourn.

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