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Senate OKs Y2K Bill; Clinton Faces Dilemma

In response to an intensive lobbying campaign by business, the Senate on June 15 passed long-stalled legislation that would limit liability against companies for Year 2000 (Y2K) computer failures. But the 62-37 margin fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a promised veto by President Clinton. The measure now goes to a conference committee to iron out differences with a similar bill previously passed by the House, which Clinton has said he would veto also. This will create a dilemma for the President when a final compromise version is sent to him for signature. If he refuses to sign it, he will anger the business community especially high-tech executives who were in Washington this week lobbying for both the Y2 legislation and a bill to extend the R&D tax credit. But if he signs it, he will invoke the wrath of two big Democratic constituencies -- trial lawyers and consumer interests. "The President and Vice President Gore have a clear choice: support the American economy, millions of small businesses, and high-tech entrepreneurs, or support a group of trial lawyers looking to get rich off Y2K problems," observes Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which led a 200-member business coalition lobbying for the Y2K bill. Calling upon the White House to join the House-Senate negotiations, Donohue says "It's time for the White House to do the right thing."

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