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Washington in brief

Cheney's aid is sought in budget talks

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 12, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Congressional negotiators turned to Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday to help resolve an impasse over drought relief for farmers that was imperiling the current year's funding for much of the federal government.

The chairmen of the House and Senate appropriations committees both talked repeatedly with the vice president, their aides said, as they struggled to find a way to pay for $3.1-billion in farm aid that senior lawmakers said was critical to passing the $396-billion measure by the end of the week.

Senate witnesses disagree on malpractice crisis

Doctors, patients and insurance experts agreed Tuesday that skyrocketing malpractice insurance premiums are to blame for the health care crisis engulfing 12 states and threatening 30 others.

The witnesses at a Senate hearing disagreed, however, about what caused the surge in insurance rates or how to curb it.

New effort seeks greater food safety authority

The government still isn't protecting consumers from contaminated meat a decade after four children died and 700 people were sickened in an E. coli outbreak linked to hamburgers sold by the Jack-in-the-Box fast food chain in the West, food safety activists and Democrats said Tuesday.

"Too many families have tragically lost loved ones to preventable foodborne diseases," said Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, announcing a new effort to give the Agriculture Department authority to close meatpacking plants where inspectors find contaminated meat.

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