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SENATE GIVES 99-0 NOD TO $16 BILLION IN CUTS

After a week of debate culminated by two days of political arm-twisting, the Senate late Thursday night unanimously approved cuts of $16 billion in government spending in the current fiscal year.

In doing so, it shifted millions of dollars back to welfare, education and social programs that were targets of the budget-cutting bill that the House approved last month. The two versions will now be reconciled by a conference committee.The vote on Thursday night was 99-0, with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., not voting.

Employing a tactic that Republicans in years past had used so effectively to frustrate a Democratic majority - slowing the debate to a crawl - Democratic senators were able to wrest from the new majority nearly $835 million for efforts as varied as a research program on the zebra mussel ($2 million) and President Clinton's national service program, Americorps, which would get $105 million of these so-called add-backs.

The bulk of the add-backs were included in an amendment offered by Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, the Republican leader, and Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic leader.

The core of that amendment was identical to a deal that the two leaders reached on Wednesday night but that fell through later. It was only after renewed negotiations Thursday evening that a further deal was struck, with the blessing of the White House. When it was, the Senate quickly approved it.

Just days from formally embarking on his presidential bid, Dole wanted to polish his credentials as a budget cutter. In the wake of the balanced budget amendment's demise in the Senate last month, Dole also wanted to demonstrate that he could move crucial GOP legislation.

The amendment included the Americorps money, $220 million for modernization of public housing, $80 million to improve housing on American Indian reservations and $35 million for the Women, Infants and Children program.

It also restored $280 million to education programs, $100 million of which would go to the safe and drug-free schools program, $60 million to the Clinton administration's Goals: 2000 program and $42 million to Head Start.

The add-backs were more than offset by cuts elsewhere totaling $1.6 billion. These included $700 million from airport improvement projects, $550 million from HUD Section 8 Project Reserves and $337 million for federal administration and travel budgets. The $175 million budget for Radio Free Europe and for the Voice of America was cut by $35 million.

Passage of the budget-cutting bill also broke a weeklong logjam that allowed the Senate on Thursday night to approve $6.7 billion in disaster relief for California, Texas and a dozen other states as well as $275 million in debt forgiveness that President Clinton had promised Jordan in exchange for that country's peace agreement with Israel last year.

It also enabled the Senate to follow the lead of the House and approved a day-old conference committee report on an added $3.1 billion in military spending. That appropriation will replenish money spent on Pentagon operations in Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cuba and the Persian Gulf.