The Week Ahead: Clinton at the cutting edge

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The Independent Online
THE US Congress goes into recess on Friday, but not before a tricky piece of business has been tied up: agreement on a package of tax increases and spending cuts. The House of Representatives and the Senate have each narrowly passed different bills, so a reconciliation conference of members from both houses has been trimming and tucking the various proposals into a single bill.

Today is the crunch day, when President Bill Clinton reveals the final version. Tomorrow evening he makes a televised speech from the Oval Office to mobilise public opinion before a vote later in the week.

The outcome remains a cliff- hanger, since Republicans are voting against it en masse without a single defection. The Democratic majority for previous versions has been razor-thin - the Senate version was approved only on the casting vote of Vice- President Al Gore.

So keen is Mr Clinton to get the whole business over and done with, that he appealed to the public at the weekend to put pressure on Congress. Mr Clinton summed up the feeling of exasperation: 'Now is the time to act. We've talked and dawdled long enough . . . I need you help and I hope you'll tell your senators and representatives the time has come to more forward.'

Many of Mr Clinton's more ambitious proposals have been watered down, but the 4.3 cents per gallon petrol tax, tax increases for the wealthy and cuts in health care and benefits are expected to remain. The compromise package may fall short of the dollars 500bn deficit-cutting target that was originally intended.

At least when the budget is approved, US congressmen can pack up and go home, which is more than can be said for members of the Russian parliament.

MPs in Moscow resume on Friday a special session of parliament which they called last week then adjourned, to debate matters striking at the heart of President Boris Yeltsin's authority, especially the botched and unpopular rouble reform. By postponing their challenge to Mr Yeltsin until this week, they have effectively kissed goodbye to their summer recess.

Parliamentary committees are to beaver away throughout the week, assembling their ammunition against the President.

They will present a law aimed at forcing Mr Yeltsin to submit to parliament nominations and dismissals of ministers of the interior, defence, foreign affairs and security. But if MPs plan to clip Mr Yeltsin's wings, his proposed constitution would clip theirs - and the row will surely rage on through the summer.

One chapter of violence in Los Angeles closes on Wednesday, when two white policemen, Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell, are sentenced over the beating of the black motorist Rodney King two and a half years ago. In April 1992 a California jury aquitted the two men and two other officers of criminal assault, igniting the Los Angeles riots. This April a federal court convicted Koon and Powell of violating Mr King's civil rights; their sentences could range from probation to 10 years' jail.

Abbas Hamadi, a Lebanese terrorist, is to be released from his German prison and deported to Lebanon on Sunday. He was sentenced in April 1988 to 13 years in jail for abducting two German businessmen in Beirut to secure the release of his brother, Mohammad Hamadi, who is serving a life sentence for the 1985 TWA hijacking.