September 17, 1995
Web posted at: 10:55 p.m. EDT
From Correspondents Claire Shipman and Anthony Collings
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats and Republicans are battling over two major budget items this week. On both -- Medicare and welfare -- the arguments are nearly the same. Republicans say they're making necessary cost reductions, and Democrats counter that it's too much, too fast. (78K AIFF OR 153K WAV sound)
"You say, 'oh, the Democrats are trying to scare people,'" said House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt about the Medicare fight. "...We're just trying to let people know what their plan says."
While Democrats do their best to convince senior citizens that the Republican plan would endanger health care, Republicans are out to reassure those Americans about their plan.
"This Medicare plan we have will not jeopardize the quality, the services and the technology that we currently have in the system today," said Rep. John Kasich, chairman of the House Budget Committee.
The GOP plan would slow spending by $270 billion, raise premiums and offer some choice of private plans. And the Republicans deny they're financing a tax cut with the Medicare reductions.
"We passed our tax cuts all the way back in February or March," Kasich said.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich called the Democrats' views on his Medicare plan "bizarre." "These guys have been consistently trying to misinform people," he said. (98K AIFF or 195K WAV sound)But White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta likened Gingrich to a famous bank robber.
"When he says he out to basically protect the Medicare trust fund, it's a little bit like Willie Sutton saying he's out to protect banks," Panetta said.
There are moderate voices in the Medicare debate, and some are Democrats. "No one is talking about abolishing Medicare," said Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York). "It's a question of the rate of growth."
The heated rhetoric shows little sign of diminishing on this issue, but progress is being made in the welfare reform debate.
President Clinton, in his weekly radio address on Saturday, voiced support for a Senate plan expected to pass this week. (85K AIFF or 170K WAV sound) Both the House and Senate versions of the welfare bill turn over money and control to the states, but the Senate version is more moderate. A conference committee will determine the final bill.
Clinton threw in his support for the Senate bill after senators augmented the bill with funds for child care for working mothers and a federal emergency fund to back up the states.
"I have to tell you right now, if in the conference this bill moves in any way towards the original House position, that's trouble for this bill," said Panetta.
Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, a Republican candidate for president, could not guarantee that the bill would remain acceptable to Democrats.
"I have a lot of respect for Leon Panetta," Dole said, "but he knows better than probably anybody else in the White House that in conference you have to give and take."
While the Clinton administration gave a thumbs up to the Senate bill, other Democrats complained that the bill goes too far in abandoning federal guarantees for children.
"We made a commitment 60 years ago, the middle of a depression," said Moynihan, "and now because things don't seem to be working, we're going to abandon the children."
And then too, some Republicans are on the other extreme, clamoring that the Senate bill doesn't go far enough. Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), another presidential candidate, would rather cut off aid completely for welfare recipients who continue to have children or are unwed mothers. (85K AIFF or 170K WAV sound)
How these two budget battles play out remains to be seen, but one thing is clear -- partisanship is far from dead in the nation's capital.
For more information on Welfare or Medicare, see selected articles from the LEXIS®-NEXIS® Information Service.
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