WASHINGTON REPORT TRADE BILLS PICKING UP SPEED

THE CONGRESSIONAL PUSH for trade legislation is moving into higher gear.

Senate Finance Committee members are expected to discuss this week an omnibus trade bill drafted by Finance Committee staff.The draft, prepared principally by committee staffer Jeff Lang, is based on earlier discussions with committee members' trade specialists.

Committee chairman Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, is expected to try to get as many senators, both Republican and Democratic, to cosponsor the bill.

The bill, it is believed, probably will reflect in large part a bipartisan bill - S. 1860 - sponsored by over 30 senators last year. Sen. Bentsen, however, was not one of those cosponsors.

The House Ways and Means Committee meanwhile will launch comprehensive trade hearings Feb. 5 and Feb. 10. House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, and Rep. Bob Michel, R-Ill., the minority leader, are due to head the witness list. Treasury Secretary James Baker and Clayton Yeutter, the U.S. trade representative, are likely to testify Feb. 10.

Business groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Foreign Trade Council and the Emergency Committee for American Trade, may appear, too, along with the AFL-CIO.

Some of these business organizations already have put together their own drafts of an omnibus trade bill.

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THOSE URGING A DRASTIC shortening of the U.S. export control list will like the argument offered by the president of the Soviet Union's Amtrog Trading Corp., Yuri Shcherbina: Even grain we are buying from you could be used for feeding soldiers.

On the recent action by the Reagan administration to decontrol oil and gas equipment exports to the Soviet Union, It will help, the Soviet business official said. But, he told a meeting here, the easing of these controls was still not 100 percent.

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HOW CAN YOU have a budget summit between congressional leaders and the White House when the budget isn't even finished?

James Miller, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said last week that we are still working our fingers to the bone, to produce by this Wednesday the normal support documents for the main budget plan that was released to meet a Jan. 5 deadline.

When a senator asked Mr. Miller what else should be done to shrink the budget deficit if, as expected, the president's budget does not meet the legal target for fiscal 1988, Mr. Miller said it was premature to discuss such points before those additional documents could be reviewed.

He said those details may cause congressional reviewers to trim their larger estimates of a likely deficit, but his response represented was another in a list of Miller reasons against a summit now.

He had earlier waved aside such a meeting as a code word for talking about raising taxes, and then said a summit should wait until after Democrats form their own budget plans.

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IS HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF in the battle over banking regulation?

David Silver, president of the Investment Company Institute reminded Congress that when banks were first permitted to exercise securities powers in 1927, prior to the stock market crash of 1929, it was called a ratification of what the banks were already doing. He said that many voices then considered this merely a modernization of existing law.

He told the Senate Banking Committee of course, there were a few Cassandras. The New York Journal of Commerce warned that the new law 'embarks the national banks in the hazardous business of investment banking without any proper protection.'

He asked the committee to heed that 60-year-old warning.

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THE ENERGY DEPARTMENT reportedly is working on a rebuttal to continuing Canadian accusations that the United States isn't spending enough to solve the problem of acid rain. The issue was raised again during Vice President George Bush's recent visit to Ottawa where he heard complaints that the Reagan budget didn't request enough money for acid rain research. The rebuttal apparently will be in the form of a report showing that more than $5 billion is being spent to curb acid rain. It may contain a list of clean coal projects that are being conducted with and without federal funding.

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DRINKING AND DRIVING on week-end nights is declining, a new survey by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concludes. The proportion of drivers with blood alcohol concentrations at or above the problem level of 0.1 percent declined from 4.9 percent to 3.1 percent between 1973 and 1986, researchers found. Those between 0.05 percent and 0.10 decreased from 8.5 percent to 5.2 percent.

But the reason may not be a generally more careful public so much as it may be the increased participation of women drivers.

Women at the wheel increased from 17 percent of the 1973 survey to 26 percent of the 1986 survey. Women drivers are less than half as likely to have blood alcohol concentrations at or above 0.1 percent, the new survey said.

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