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White House, Congress battle on debt limit extension

Debt limit art

November 9, 1995
Web posted at: 4:35 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A game of political "chicken" intensified Thursday, raising the possibility that the United States government could be forced to shut down next week.

Republican leaders in Congress said they would not back down from their budget confrontation with President Clinton, charging that if the government closes it will be his fault. Clinton was to meet with his cabinet Thursday to discuss contingency plans for a shutdown if the government, for the first time, is unable to pay its debts. "If the government shuts down, (the president's) fingerprints are going to be all over it," said Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.

Leon Panetta

Dole's spoke after White House spokesman Mike McCurry declared "there are no chances" of reaching an agreement with Congress on a stopgap spending bill, known as a "continuing resolution." The bill would allow the government to raise its debt limit and continue operating with borrowed money during the time it takes Congress and the administration to thrash out their differences over the federal budget.

The administration is threatening to veto a stopgap spending measure passed Wednesday by the House that would put the government on a strict fiscal diet through December 1, limiting spending in many programs to as little as 60 percent of the level that prevailed during the budget year that ended September 30. White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta accused Republicans of trying to blackmail the administration. (168K AIFF sound or 168K WAV sound)

Newt Gingrich

"It's very difficult to work with a president who seems to be primarily driven by his political advisers to engage in public relations stunts instead of having serious negotiations to do the things the country needs to get the balanced budget,"

-- House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Senate Republicans were planning to act Thursday on their own stopgap spending measure, possibly expiring December 5, four days later than the House version. Unless a debt limit extension is enacted by midnight Monday, when a previous stopgap measure expires, thousands of federal workers could be forced to stay home the next day. And on November 15 -- next Wednesday -- when the government has a $25 billion dollar interest payment due, it would be forced to default if Congress does not raise the current $4.9 trillion limit on borrowing.

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AP contributed to this report.