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White House and Congress set to battle over budget and Bosnia

November 26, 1995
Web posted at: 2:20 p.m. EST

Rochelle From Correspondent Carl Rochelle and wires

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Bosnia and the budget will lead the agenda when battles between the Clinton administration and congressional leaders resume this week. The brief break provided by the Thanksgiving holiday appears to have done little to change the confrontational attitude between Democrats and Republicans.

Bonior The flaring tempers and personal attacks that marked congressional budget battles before Thanksgiving certainly have not disappeared. The number two House Democrat said on the CNN program "Evans and Novak" Saturday that he does not believe Republican Newt Gingrich is fit to be Speaker of the House. When asked that specific question, Rep. David Bonior, House Minority Whip replied, "I do not. I think there's a real problem there. Newt gets up and you don't know who's coming to work. It's someone who's a master of getting his groups together and going on a legislative victory or it's the adolescent Newt."

congress Democrats may suffer for those remarks when Congress resumes the budget debate. On Sunday, Gingrich spokesman Alan Libsett said "we would be worried if Newt did fit Mr. Bonior's standards for leadership. Remember, those standards come from a party that has relentlessly opposed balancing the budget, ignored saving Medicare from bankruptcy and promoted the dependency of the welfare state."

Molinari The White House and Congress are arguing over the semantics of the seven year balanced budget agreement that was part of the temporary spending extension passed last week. "The word is 'shall,' Mr. President, not 'may' and we believe we now have your commitment," said Rep. Susan Molinari (R., New York) during the Republican response to President Clinton's radio address.

The White House insists Mr. Clinton agreed to the seven year mandate only if key priorities like Medicare, education and the environment are protected. But the argument must be settled by December 15, when the temporary spending bill runs out. After that, the government could be shut down again.

Bosnia The budget debate may be overshadowed by the prospects of sending United States troops to Bosnia. The top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee said Sunday those prospects could even foster a budget agreement. On NBC's "Meet the Press'', Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York said "we have to get that budget silliness over fast. Both sides have to give." Congress and the White House owe it to the 20,000 troops who would go to Bosnia to reach a budget deal, he said.

The Clinton administration is pulling out all the stops in an effort to convince a skeptical Congress and a divided American public that sending troops to Bosnia to help maintain peace is a good idea. Top U.S. negotiator Richard Holbrooke said on "Meet the Press" that he believes Congress will support the president after he consults with congressional leaders. "American leadership is essential in preventing a bloodbath and more human tragedy," he said.

"The violence done to those innocent civilians does violence to the principles on which America stands," Clinton said Saturday in his radio address. "The only way to end the killing for good is to secure a commitment to peace. Now our conscience demands that we act."

But defense secretary William Perry stressed all sides in the Bosnian conflict must abide by the agreement before U.S. troops go to Bosnia. "Our position for two and a half years has been before we send troops, we require not only a peace agreement, but we see some evidence of compliance," Perry said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Molinari said Bosnia is an issue that concerns many lawmakers. "All America awaits the president's justification for the most difficult decision a nation ever makes, committing American troops overseas."

The president will take his case for Bosnia to the American people in an Oval Office address Monday evening, and his budget negotiators will be meeting with congressional leaders all week. Most observers agree that getting congressional approval on either issue won't be easy.

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