This Week

Issue: "Clinton: Under seige," Feb. 6, 1998

Less is Mir

Mir Aimal Kasi, who murdered two CIA employees outside the agency's headquarters five years ago, was sentenced to death by a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge last week. Hours after a jury convicted him and recommended the death penalty last fall, four American auditors for a Houston-based oil and gas exploration company, along with their Pakistani driver, were shot to death in Karachi. The Aimal Secret Action Committee later claimed responsibility for the killings and threatened more attacks if their hero was sentenced to death.

The surplus

In his State of the Union address, President Clinton slapped handcuffs on Republicans who want to use the imaginary federal budget surplus (see sidebar, page 9) for tax relief. Mr. Clinton said the "surplus," which in actuality consists of Social Security tax receipts over and above current obligations due, should be reserved for the coming Social Security crisis-around the year 2010, when baby boomers start to retire. In addition, the president announced plans for a series of public forums to be held across the country this year. He had said in December that he would hold a conference on Social Security in Washington and then ask Congress to pass reforms in 1999. Republicans continued to argue that any money left over should immediately be refunded to the taxpayers. That, they argued, would do much more to provide for the stable retirements of the next generation of Americans. "When the government taxes away money that people could have used for their own retirement needs, Social Security's problems grow worse," said Rep. Bill Archer (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

All moms work

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As if actual policy questions can be heard over the din of scandal in Washington, leadership Republicans launched a counter-proposal to President Clinton's $21.7 billion child-care initiative. Coordinated by Idaho Republican Larry Craig, the GOP proposal would give stay-at-home moms the same tax credit now restricted to parents who pay for day care. Like Mr. Clinton's plan, it also would provide more money to subsidize child care for low-income working parents and give tax credits to businesses that provide child care to their workers. Mr. Craig said in the Republicans' national radio speech, "The president has a lot to say about mothers who work outside the home. Let's get it straight, Mr. President. All moms work. No one should be left out." Left out thus far have been conservative Republicans such as Indiana Sen. Dan Coats. He has yet to sign on to a specific proposal, but says whatever plan emerges should not punish stay-at-home moms. At a press conference he touted a Family Research Council poll showing that parents would prefer to spend more time with their children if they could afford it. "We pump a lot of money into child care," Sen. Coats said. "What mothers really want is more time with their children, not less."

Bad judge-ment

Even before President Clinton rapped Republicans in the State of the Union for delaying the confirmation of his judicial appointments, the chairman who oversees Senate action on the president's nominees warned the president's men to do themselves "a favor and stay out" of the confirmation process. The president's weekly radio address concentrated on the slow pace of judicial confirmations. White House communications director Ann Lewis warned a "full-scale political confrontation" is in the works. But Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told the Federalist Society that the president "most assuredly" will not receive "carte blanche in filling the federal judiciary." Nevertheless, the day after the president's criticism last week, senators voted to confirm three of Mr. Clinton's nominees to the federal bench.

Cheat sheet

Prosecutors won indictments last week against 20 government subcontractors who allegedly helped up to 13,000 immigrants cheat on their citizenship tests for fees ranging from $125 to $500. The suspects, who either worked for or operated testing centers on behalf of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, are accused of collecting more than $3 million from immigrants in 22 states in exchange for promises they would pass written tests involving English comprehension, U.S. history, and civics.

Christmas quotas

A New Mexico public school choir director lost his job after criticism that last month's "Winter Concert" contained too many songs with Christian themes. The superintendent of schools notified director Frank Rotolo of the firing last week. His crime: The December program included no songs that referred to holidays of minority religions; about half of the more than 15 songs contained Christian themes. Mr. Rotolo's lawyer advised him not to discuss the case while he appeals.

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