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Clinton's $144 million trim of defense bill angers Congress

If President Clinton's sparing use of the line-item veto on a $248 billion defense bill was designed to avoid conflict with Congress, his strategy was not entirely successful.

Clinton trimmed a modest $144 million from the huge military spending bill Tuesday, striking out obscure items for alloy research and fuel cell development among others, and sparing major spending added to the bill by lawmakers."What I did today was responsible and quite restrained," Clinton said while traveling in South America.

With Congress out of town for the Columbus Day holiday, there were none of the floor speeches by outraged members or proposals to repeal the new line-item veto authority. But via fax machines and phone calls, members expressed their displeasure.

"For a president who is supposedly concerned about the environment, he obviously has no idea that the Defense Department is one of the nation's largest polluters," said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. He was reacting to Clinton's elimination of a $4 million program that backers say helps the military to avoid creating hazardous waste. The money was destined for a research center named after the late New Jersey Republican Rep. Dean Gallo.

"I couldn't be more angry than I am about this," said Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., over Clinton's $4 million veto that eliminated research being done in Lewis' district into a new cancer treatment device with possible breast-cancer applications.

"The president has clearly taken a hike and missed an opportunity to eliminate billions of dollars in low-priority, unnecessary and wasteful spending from the defense budget," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said.