GOP struggles to pass budget cuts
By Bob Franken/CNN
October 26, 1999
Web posted at: 6:37 p.m. EDT (2237 GMT)
WASHINGTON -- GOP congressional sources tell CNN that over the objections of some in their party, Republican leaders are struggling to get the votes they need to pass their 1.4 percent across-the-board budget cuts.
"Our members are coming together," said Majority Whip Tom Delay. "We will pass these bills even if we have to do it all by ourselves."
But asked if he had the votes, Delay replied: "I don't talk about votes."
Many Republicans, particularly in the Senate, want the cut reduced to 1 percent. Democrats charge that in either case, presenting it as an alternative to tapping into the Social Security surplus is misleading.
"They're bringing forward a scheme which doesn't prevent them from spending Social Security money, but wreaks havoc across the budget," said House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt.
Gen. Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led the parade against an across-the-board cut.
"This would strip away the gains that we have made or what we have just done to start readiness moving back in the right direction," he said. "If applied to this program, it would be devastating."
"I can't imagine 1 percent wreaking havoc," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
As the political game raged on outside, the tedious search for a way out continued behind closed doors. White House Budget Director Jack Lew and GOP appropriators spent another day in a line-by-line effort to find common ground.
GOP Capitol Hill sources tell CNN they had an informal deal with the Democrats: they would not include congressional pay raises in their across-the-board cuts, as long as Democrats didn't drag the raises into the political argument.
But they did.
"When you call for sacrifice, you're not in a very good position when you're calling for it after you've taken a $4,600-a-year pay raise," said White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart.
So, as far as Republican leaders are concerned, the deal is off.
The White House says an across-the-board spending cut faces a certain veto, but as the political positioning continues, negotiators on both sides say that they're inching closer and closer to a final agreement on the fiscal 2000 federal budget.