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Senate tackles sweeping budget bill

October 25, 1995
Web posted at: 10:40 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Candy Crowley

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- There were no trumpets to herald the occasion, but Republicans didn't really need them. They were blowing their own horns.

Wednesday, the Senate began debating the sweeping GOP proposal that aims to balance the budget by 2002, while cutting $245 billion in taxes. The bill also ends guaranteed welfare for poor children, limits health care guarantees for the disabled and limits spending on Medicare.

"This is an extraordinary 48 hours, historic," said House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "Almost, not quite, comparable to the New Deal, but certainly on the same scale as the Great Society." (102K AIFF sound or 102K WAV sound)

Historic it may be, but suspenseful, it's not. The Republicans were smiling because they knew they were going to win. The Democrats were not smiling because they knew that they were going to lose.

Tom Daschle

"This is a tragic day," said Minority Leader Tom Daschle. "It is an historic day. And it is a day I think the GOP will regret someday." (68K AIFF sound or 68K WAV sound)

But it is not the last day and not even close to the last word on the bill. In many ways this budget package is the crescendo that Republicans have been working toward for these past nine months of Republican rule.

The chorus is familiar enough now that Republicans can sing the Democrat's notes. "I know some of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle will paint a horrible picture. They will say we are hurting seniors, and children and veterans," said Majority Leader Bob Dole. (170K AIFF sound or 170K WAV sound)

Ted Kennedy

Sen. Edward Kennedy, for one, proved Dole was right. "If this Republican bill becomes law, it will devastate senior citizens, working families and children in every community in America," said Kennedy, D-Massachusetts. "It is a transparent scheme to take from the needy to give to the greedy." (43K AIFF sound or 43K WAV sound)

Jay Rockefeller

And Democrats can trill the Republican tune as well. "The response on the other side will be that we are exaggerating. That we are trying to scare seniors," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia.

It was right on key. "It's all scaring seniors, scaring veterans, scaring children, and all the week before Halloween," Dole said.

The sounds are slightly different, but mostly the same in the House, where Democrats can do little more than rail against their fate. "They spend more on defense than Head Start," said Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia. "Star wars over schools, bombs over babies."

The inevitable ending is passage of a gigantic package which could touch nearly every American life.

It would scale back Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs. Student loans, nutrition programs, farm programs and federal subsidies for the working poor are also targeted.

Although President Clinton agrees that balancing the budget is necessary, he says that the Republican plan goes about it the wrong way. He plans to veto it.

With enough votes to sustain the presidential veto, Democrats will eventually force a reduction in the tax cuts in order to soften some of the hits to programs for the poor and elderly.

But while a veto will make Democrats players in the game, it will remain a Republican field. The best Democrats can hope to do is alter the balance slightly.

What they cannot do is change the direction that Republicans are determined to take country.

Senate leaders expect a final vote by Friday or Monday. The House will debate and vote on its version Thursday.

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