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Israel Aid, Other Jewish Interests Imperiled, for Now, by Budget Cuts

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Lobbyists on Jewish issues were sent scurrying here this week to see how their favorite programs would be affected by President Bush’s order Monday to make across-the-board budget cuts to meet deficit-reduction targets.

The cuts ordered are 5.3 percent in non-defense programs and 4.3 percent in Pentagon programs.

While they may very well be restored within a few weeks, it is not immediately clear how U.S. aid to Israel and other items of interest to Jews may be affected.

For example, Israel had been scheduled on Oct. 30 to receive its $1.2 billion in economic aid for the fiscal year.

An official at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said it has not yet been determined whether Israel will receive the full figure and be asked to refund 5.3 percent of it, or if it will receive all but that $63.6 million.

Israel could also receive 11 months of full funding, with one month reduced by 5.3 percent, the AIPAC official added.

It is also not immediately clear how Israel’s military aid, $1.8 billion in credits to be spent on U.S. weaponry, will be affected by the cut.

Bush’s “sequestration” of federal programs came after Congress failed to agree on its 1990 deficit reconciliation bill.

That bill, for the fiscal year that started Oct. 1, brings total spending for the fiscal year in line with the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit target of $110 billion for 1990.

CHILD-CARE BILL NOT DEAD YET

To make it easier to negotiate the reconciliation bill, lawmakers decided to remove non-essential items that would take a long time to negotiate, including catastrophic health care, federal aid for child care and a reduction in the capital gains tax.

But landmark child-care legislation is still expected to be hammered out soon in a House-Senate conference committee.

Both the House and Senate “are strongly committed to coming out with a bill” to aid child care, said Sammie Moshenberg, Washington representative of the National Council of Jewish Women.

She said the child-care package may be negotiated in time to be passed in final form on Nov. 2, when Congress must approve a bill to raise the federal debt ceiling so that the government does not run out of money.

But in any event, she expects Congress to approve a child-care bill by Thanksgiving.

Jewish groups are especially interested in whether the conference committee will allow federal funds to be given to churches and synagogues that offer sectarian child-care programs.

Both the House and Senate bills would allow religious institutions to receive such funds for their child-care programs.

But while the Senate would allow such funds to go to religious-oriented programs, the House has approved language that would restrict such funds to non-sectarian programs.

Orthodox Jewish groups are supporting the Senate version, while several other Jewish groups back the House version.

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