Battle lines drawn over education, tobacco, taxes, health care

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a prelude to a summer-long struggle under the Capitol dome and in the election campaigns to follow, Republicans and Democrats staked out sharply different positions Thursday on education, health care, tobacco and taxes.
With lawmakers eager to begin a two-week break, House and Senate Republicans held a pep rally in the Capitol to promote an education bill that President Clinton has already vowed to veto.
House GOP officials also unveiled the framework of a bill to curtail teen smoking, which drew instant criticism from Democrats — just as the outlines of a health care bill did earlier this week.
Republicans and Democrats alike said the fate of these legislative struggles depends in large measure on Clinton’s willingness to seek compromise this fall.
Republican leaders adjusted the schedule so that newly-elected member Heather Wilson’s first vote could be cast on one of the most politically popular bills of the year, a measure to strengthen the rights of taxpayers in dealings with the IRS. But even that measure became an arena for partisan struggle, as Democrats vowed to try to remove a provision that effectively grants a capital gains tax cut.
Still, it was a measure of the bill’s popularity that Gephardt said he would support the measure regardless of the fate of the tax provision. Clinton is expected to sign it after final Senate passage next month.
The outlook is different for the education bill, which cleared both houses of Congress earlier this week and would allow tax-preferred savings accounts to be set up for use in paying for public or private school expenses.
Education ranks at or near the top on the list of voter concerns this election year, and Republicans have labored for more than a year to cut into what has traditionally been an issue that favors Democrats.