Led by the unusual duo of Sens. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Senate yesterday approved a transportation spending bill recommending that the federal government be allowed to study current corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for automobiles and determine if they should be boosted. For five years, the Clinton administration has been forbidden from even studying the standards — let alone raising them — even as SUVs have surged in popularity, bringing average fuel economy to its lowest level since 1980. The issue now goes to House and Senate negotiators. Meanwhile, the House yesterday voted to stop funding one of Vice President Al Gore’s pet programs, the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, a cooperative effort between U.S. automakers and the administration to create more environmentally friendly cars and trucks.