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The House approved restrictions on federal aid for ``obscene'' art on Oct. 3, a compromise that eased away from even stricter limitations pushed by Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina and other conservatives. The 381-to 41 vote sent a spending bill containing the provision to the Senate, where final congressional approval was expected later in the week. The rules would apply to money dispensed by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The legislation bars endowment officials from granting funds to exhibitions that they consider ``obscene,'' including works depicting sadomasochism, homoeroticism, sexual exploitation of children, or individuals engaged in sex acts. In addition, the officials must find that the work lacks ``serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.''

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House-Senate negotiators chiseled the compromise last week after the Senate, which had approved Senator Helms's amendment in July, reversed itself in favor of milder limits.

Helms had sought to prohibit federal aid for obscene or indecent art, and for works offensive to a religion, ethnic group, race, or age group, to or the disabled.

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