CQ: Budget Deficit Predictions (3/31/97)
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New Round Of Budget Talks Kick Off
Republicans to offer alternative budget if no progress is made
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 8) -- White House and congressional budget leaders emerged from their first day of renewed budget talks Tuesday, which focused on Medicare, saying it was a good session but just the beginning of a long process to reach a balanced budget agreement.
In an effort to jump start the stalled budget process, President Bill Clinton's negotiators are under orders to be "flexible," and today the administration offered to seek an additional $18 billion in Medicare savings.
Following the session, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) told reporters, "Today the subject was Medicare. We discussed a series of options and ideas. We arrived at no conclusions but it was a healthy meeting, a good one, a solid meeting."
House Budget Committee John Kasich (R-Ohio) said, "Everybody knows that we're kind of at the end of the road. We're either going to see some progress made over the course of the next week or we're not going to reach any agreement in the short term. And I think to categorize it in any other just gives people reason to speculate across the country -- if they even care about this."
Talks are slated to run through the end of the week and into next Monday and Tuesday, with a different part of the budget discussed each day.
Earlier, White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry described the White House's position, saying, "I think that we understand that we're going to have to show some flexibility if we want to achieve a balanced budget agreement. The president wants to work with this Republican Congress to achieve a balanced budget agreement," he said.
A key White House negotiator, Budget Director Franklin Raines, said that he was satisfied with that approach.
"The president has held numerous meetings with members [of Congress] on the subject of a balanced budget and he kicked off the current effort, so I'm quite satisfied with my marching orders from the president which are to move forward, to see if we can reach an agreement on the balanced budget, and he's the number one supporter as far as I'm concerned in terms of making this process work," Raines said.
Meeting participants also agreed not to criticize each side's position through the press, so remarks following today's session stressed the positive. But other lawmakers are under no such restriction.
Earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), one of the most vocal critics of the president's budget, warned again that Republicans may have to propose their own budget -- a move the Mississippian has referred to as "plan B." "Action must be taken," he said. "We must see some movement this week or early next week or we're going to have to move on within the Congress hopefully on a bipartisan basis."
Lott continued, "The president has got to realize that when you're talking about a diet to control spending you can't be ordering up steak and Hagen Daaz. And what he has done is asked for $70 billion in more spending at a time when we're trying to control the rate of growth of spending."
But Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) is accusing the Republicans of dragging their heels on the budget process. "Turtles have faster movement than what the Republicans are proposing here on the budget," he said.
On Lott's proposed "plan B," Dashcle said, "If they didn't like the president's budget, plan B should have been offered two months ago." He also wondered "why it takes a meeting with the White House to get the budget process moving in the Congress. There is no reason why Sen. Domenici can't call a meeting."
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