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President, congressional leaders hold 11th-hour meeting on budget

November 13, 1995
Web posted at: 11:40 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Top congressional leaders arrived at the White House late Monday evening, in a last-minute attempt to avert a federal government shutdown.

The meeting with the president included Senate Majority leader Bob Dole, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt.

A few minutes before the arrivals, President Clinton vetoed the stop-gap spending measure sent to him by Congress earlier in the evening.


"If I signed my name to this bill now, millions of elderly couples across the country would be forced to sign away $264 more in Medicare premiums next year, premium hikes that are not necessary to balance the budget," Clinton said in a written statement given to reporters.

Gingrich told reporters Monday evening he "hoped everything was on the table" and that he had been told there were "no pre-conditions" placed on the meeting.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Dole said, "We'll go to the White House to meet with the President to see if there's something we can do yet this evening to work out a continuing resolution."

Dole said the president agreed to the meeting when a GOP congressional staff member called the White House Monday evening.

"We made a telephone call, to see if we could come down without conditions and the answer came back, 'Yes,'" Dole said.

Gingrich said congressional leaders have been pushing for such a meeting for several days.

"This time, they said, 'The president will be glad to have you come down and talk, no preconditions,'" Gingrich said.

"The key was they dropped all of their conditions and said let's sit down and talk," he added.

If a compromise on a continuing resolution is reached between GOP leaders and the President, the House and Senate could vote on it overnight, but Gingrich suggested any such action would wait until Tuesday.

"I think the potential is there for us to do something, but I doubt very much we will do it tonight," Gingrich told reporters.

Earlier Monday, the president vetoed the temporary debt- ceiling increase Congress put on his desk, calling it part of a "backdoor effort" by Republicans to impose their priorities on the nation.

"Their goal is to force me to sign legislation which I know to be harmful to our nation and to its future, or to veto the legislation also with harmful consequences. This is a critical moment of decision for the country," said Clinton.

Later, at a Democratic Leadership Council meeting, Clinton accused Republicans of a deliberate strategy of precipitating a crisis.

"As long as they insist on plunging ahead with a budget that violates our values in a process that is characterized more by pressure than constitutional practice, I will fight it," said Clinton. "I am fighting it today. I will fight it tomorrow. I will fight it next week and next month. I will fight it until we get a budget that is fair to all Americans."

Gingrich had a different spin on the standoff. "We were elected to get rid of all the phony promises and the phony excuses and to be honest with the American people and say to them, 'You want to balance the budget? You want to save your children and grandchildren, you want to have lowered interest rates, you want to have lower taxes?' We can do it. It is not easy. It takes hard decisions. But we have to have a dialogue among ourselves and it has to be honest."

Asked who the American people will blame if the standoff is not resolved, House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, "They'll blame all of us. I think the American people expect us to be able to act like adults to get in a room and talk in a civil manner and to get something accomplished."

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