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Senate veto override restores Olympic Village funds

The Senate completed an override Wednesday of President Clinton's line-item veto of money to move Army Reserve units from Fort Douglas to make way for the 2002 Olympic Village.

The 78-20 vote - coupled with an earlier 347-69 House vote - also restores funding to 37 other military construction projects nationwide. The entire package is worth $287 million."It has been a long process, but with this vote these vital funds are finally on their way for the 2002 Olympic Village," said Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.

It ends an episode that was embarrassing for the administration - which told Utah officials privately it did not realize the Fort Douglas move had anything to do with the Olympics.

After the national press bashed Clinton for inadvertently vetoing the Olympic Village, the administration worked out a deal to allow the project to proceed anyway - without acknowledging a mistake, and still pushing to keep the line-item vetoes intact.

In that side deal, the administration agreed to move the reserve units this year into rented facilities by September to make way for the athlete housing.

It said it would then seek funding in future years to permanently move the reserve units to Camp Williams. Clinton included $13.2 million in his 1999 budget for that earlier this month.

However, the final Senate action Wednesday immediately restores $12.7 million originally earmarked for the project - probably making the need for the other 1999 money moot (although reserve officials have said the vetoed money was not enough to cover all costs of their move, which they opposed).

"The fact that this project is in the president's current budget request underscores the need for this project and the poor judgment in vetoing it in the first place," Bennett said.

The Olympic Village veto was not the only controversial part of the vetoed package.

Pentagon officials testified in hearings that none of the 38 projects in it met all the criteria Clinton said he had established for such vetoes - and they said each project was important.

Bennett said, "The fact that this president did not exercise better discretion in using the line-item veto authority undermines my confidence in its success as a judicious method of fiscal discipline rather than as a political billyclub."

At the White House, spokesman Barry Toiv expressed Clinton's disappointment at the Senate vote and defended the president's use of the line-item veto.

"He still believes it is a useful tool for reducing unnecessary spending," Toiv said.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is preparing to decide the constitutionality of the line-item veto. A lower court ruled earlier this month that it is unconstitutional.