November 9, 1995
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Irv Chapman
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- By a vote of 49-47, the Senate joined the House Thursday in temporarily extending the debt ceiling, the government's ability to borrow money. It boosted the ceiling from $4.9 trillion to $4.967 trillion, but only until December 12.
The Senate made only one change to the House version of the extension, striking a provision to eliminate the Department of Commerce. The House had added a number of so-called "sweeteners" aimed at winning support of conservatives, all of which the Senate version preserves.
President Clinton had said the add-on provisions are unacceptable and had promised a veto if they were included. The provisions the White House objects to include strict measures governing use of federal trust funds to help pay the government's debts, reform of government regulations, limiting death row appeals, and requiring the president to agree to a seven-year balanced-budget deal.
The House is expected to vote again on the debt ceiling extension Friday morning, without the Commerce Department elimination provision. Since the rest of the sweeteners are still attached, it will likely pass.
Because neither the House nor the Senate has the votes to override the expected veto, the government could be forced to into default November 15, when a $25 billion interest payment comes due.
Clinton stepped up his war of nerves Thursday with a cabinet meeting to discuss next week's potential shutdown of government services and the Treasury's ability to borrow.
"The legislation is not a debt-ceiling increase," said Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. "It is a shortcut to default on the full faith and credit of the United States of America for the first time in its history." (80K AIFF sound or 80K WAV sound)
Rubin had non-partisan company. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan wrote to the Senate Banking Committee, "I do not think the issue of default should be on the table."
And six former Treasury secretaries of both parties wrote House Speaker Newt Gingrich, "We share the strong view that the debt should not be embroiled in that (budget) debate." This, of course, is the view held strongly by the Clinton administration and by Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Democratic politicians reacted strongly to what they saw as Republican "veto-baiting," such as the proposal to eliminate the Commerce Department. For instance, Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colorado, compared their tactics to the melodramatics of the western "High Noon."
But Budget Committee Chairman Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, called elimination of the Commerce Department "collateral to the American people as we accumulate more debt."
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole put the onus on Clinton. "The choice will be his. If the government shuts down, his fingerprints will be all over it."
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