October 27, 1995
Web posted at: 9:20 a.m. EDT
From Capitol Hill Correspondent Bob Franken
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Senate has planned a Friday vote on an austere Republican budget plan, passed by House Republicans on Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole promised the Republicans a victory on the plan, which would scale back growth in social services programs, cut taxes by $245 billion and promise elimination of the federal deficit by 2002.
The budget plan also ends guaranteed welfare for poor children, limits health care guarantees for the disabled and limits the growth of spending on Medicare.
For House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Georgia, and his loyal Republican army, it was a victory to savor. Only 10 Republicans broke rank with the leadership and voted against the massive budget bill in Thursday's 227-203 House vote.
House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas, saw the vote as a reversal of 60 years of leftward drift in Congress. "With this vote today, we will crank this ship around. We will turn this ship around to the right," he said. (68K AIFF sound or 68K WAV sound)
The House bill would make huge rollbacks in entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare and farm price supports plus scores of other government programs. Those cuts, plus a $245 billion dollar tax cut, have made the budget reconciliation bill a huge target for Democrats.
"They give us a new sick tax for the elderly. They raise new barriers to education for the young and more taxes on working Americans," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas. "That's why we call this Republican bill wreck-conciliation. It's a wreck for working American families." (137K AIFF sound or 137K WAV sound)
But the Democrat arguments and last-minute demonstrations couldn't sink the tight Republican ship.
In the Senate, where the ship is not quite so waterproof, Dole agreed to a package of concessions to woo party moderates, who could hold the key to the bill's passage. The concessions included restoring federal nursing home safety standards, Medicaid money for big states and some funding for student loans.
The bill's anticipated passage provoked a bitter comment Thursday from White House press secretary Mike McCurry on why Republicans want to cut the rate of increase in the Medicare program.
"I suppose it's because eventually they'd like to see the program just die and go away. That's probably what they would like to see happen to seniors too, if you think about it," McCurry said during his daily press briefing. (119K AIFF sound or 119K WAV sound)
Dole and Gingrich wasted no time before responding to the comment. They issued a joint statement calling on President Clinton to fire McCurry. "President Clinton owes us an apology and he owes the American people a new press secretary," the statement said.
McCurry responded by saying he went too far. "In the heat of the debate, I went overboard and quickly said so. I should have stuck to the basic point. Republican Congressional leaders should not suggest to the American people that they want to save Medicare when in their heart, they want to see it wither away."
Now that the GOP budget plan has passed the House, and with the Senate expected to follow suit, there will be negotiations between the two to work out their differences. A final bill, expected by the end of November, will head to the White House, where it is almost sure to be vetoed.
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