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Disaster Aid Without Doodads

Washington fiddled while disaster victims yearned. But the upshot may be a bit more wisdom in separating partisan goals and legislative responsibilities.

The disaster victims in 35 states, including the flood-devastated upper Midwest, were kept in suspense over $5.4 billion in aid as part of a spending bill that should never have been controversial. It became so, because Republicans thought the White House would have to go along even if they added a couple of self-serving doodads - not an unknown ploy in either party. One would bar the Census Bureau from population sampling techniques the GOP calculated could lose them a number of House seats. The other would bar government shutdown in a way Democrats say violates the spirit of the budget agreement.

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President Clinton somehow found his Harry Truman side, exercising a promised veto, and Democrats spurred public outcry with an all-night anti-doodad vigil. By Thursday, senators seemed ready for aid to go ahead, and for the extra provisions to be properly considered on their own.