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Energy bill, trade pact among GOP lawmakers' priorities

WASHINGTON—Here are the leading legislative priorities that Republicans and allied business lobbyists hope to push through Congress in coming weeks:

ENERGY—The Senate bill, expected to face floor debate in mid-June, includes tax incentives for traditional energy sources such as coal, oil, gas and nuclear power, as well as renewable sources such as solar, wind and biomass. The legislation aims to reduce U.S. oil consumption by 1 million barrels of oil per day in 10 years, or about 5 percent. A House of Representatives version already passed.

CAFTA—The Bush administration is expected to send draft language to implement the Central American Free Trade Agreement the week of June 13. The trade deal would expand commerce with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. U.S. sugar producers are the most vocal opponents because CAFTA would open U.S. markets to lower-priced Central American sugar.

ASBESTOS—A bipartisan Senate bill would create a $140 billion fund to pay people made ill by asbestos exposure. It's intended to provide relief to businesses against lawsuits. Some Democrats believe the victim compensation is inadequate. Some Republicans want more protection for businesses against future lawsuits and assurances that taxpayers won't be forced to supplement the fund. There is no House version of the bill.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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