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Clinton vetoes 8 projects worth $19.3 million

President Clinton on Friday took aim at a small quantity of high- grade "pork" by using his line-item veto authority to trim eight projects worth $19.3 million.

He cut a $21 billion energy and water development spending bill - including a northern Mississippi lake dredging project championed by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss.Clinton has been increasingly cautious in wielding his line-item veto pen since angry Republican and Democratic appropriators denounced previous cuts in a military construction bill. Friday he went after only a fraction of the 423 water projects, worth $817 million, Congress added above the president's budget request.

But for the first time, Clinton eliminated spending for a project that had been promoted by a top GOP leader and also targeted projects specifically deemed as "corporate welfare" by administration officials.

"In taking this action, I tried to show deference to Congress's role in the appropriations process," Clinton said in a statement while traveling in South America. "Nevertheless, I feel strongly that my administration should look for opportunities to save taxpayer dollars by striking unwarranted provisions of bills that come before me."

The president cut $1.9 million that was added under pressure from Lott, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and other Mississippi GOP lawmakers to dredge Sardis Lake, near Oxford, Miss., as part of a commercial and recreational marina development. The Army Corps of Engineers has spent $2.1 million on the project. Lott and the others demanded the government pick up the rest of the tab.

But the administration said the additional spending could not be justified for a project to enhance local recreational navigation. Though Clinton's action was a mild embarrassment for Lott, Senate aides Friday insisted that Lott had been far less en-thu-siastic about the project than Mississippi Republican House members. "I don't think he views this as anything that would affect his working relationship" with the president, said Susan Irby, Lott's press secretary.

Clinton also struck $1.3 million that had been earmarked to finish a long-term copper mining research project the government has jointly conducted with Asarco Inc. and Freeport-McMoran, two of the nation's mining and mineral giants. Asarco already has benefitted handsomely from this type of "corporate welfare,"which the administration now wants to stamp out.

In December 1995, Asarco, taking advantage of an antiquated 1872 mining law, paid the government $1,745 for the rights to mine 347 acres in the Coronado National Forest near Tucson, Ariz. The Bureau of Land Management has estimated the value of the unmined minerals at $2.9 billion. Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt denounced the government giveaway, saying it was "an outrage" taxpayers were being asked to subsidize the profits of major mining companies with public resources.

Clinton also canceled $1 million for a joint government project with Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing and a consortium of other corporations to develop high-voltage aluminum power cables, and $4 million for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to develop a multi-purpose canister for disposing of spent nuclear fuel.

One of the five water projects that fell victim to the veto was $6 million to dredge the Allegheny River to allow tour boats to reach the Kittanning Riverfront Park, in the district of Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. It was Clinton's third veto of projects in Murtha's district.