Congressional, administration budget negotiators continue to seek resolution
November 12, 1999
Web posted at: 5:29 p.m. EST (2229 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- White House and congressional budget negotiators
continued to communicate Friday by phone and fax, primarily about how to pay for the extra spending to which both sides have agreed in their quest to forge a final fiscal 2000 federal budget.
Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff John Podesta and Budget Director
Jack Lew met Friday afternoon with House Minority Leader Dick
Gephardt (D-Missouri) to hammer out a final strategy for the congressional minority in advance of Congress' expected adjournment, which could occur some time next week.
Bargainers still are searching for ways to find so-called offsets, or savings, to compensate for the approximately $6 billion in new spending agreed to so both Republicans and Democrats may keep their promise not to dip into the Social Security trust fund.
Republican aides say they are "making progress," but do not expect a final deal before early next week.
GOP lawmakers say they will likely roll the five outstanding fiscal 2000 spending bills into one comprehensive "omnibus" bill once all of the remaining details are settled.
In addition to agreeing on how to offset the new spending, a few major issues remain to be resolved:
-- Almost $1 billion in back dues to the United Nations is still held up over a demand by one House Republican on language restricting aid to
international family planning organizations be included in the final budget bill. The U.S. risks losing its seat on the U.N. General Assembly if the dues are not paid.
-- House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) continues to negotiate with the White House on its request to let the International Monetary Fund re-value its gold in order to give limited debt-relief to poor countries.
-- Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia) is still insisting that language be added to the bill to overturn a federal judge's decision restricting coal mining on mountain tops in his state. The White House stands in opposition to Byrd's demands because of environmental concerns.
-- Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) says he will hold up the spending measure over dairy product pricing legislation he claims will hurt his state.
A current stopgap measure to fund portions of the federal government that whose 2000 spending bills have not been signed into law expires next Wednesday. It is not clear if another such bill will be needed before a final budget bill reaches the floors of the House and Senate.
Members of Congress are due to return to Washington next Tuesday, after a short Veterans Day break.