November 15, 1995
Web posted at: 9:45 a.m. EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- About 800,000 federal workers stayed home again Wednesday as discussions between the GOP and the White House proved futile, with both sides refusing to budge on the budget. As the partial government shutdown entered its second day, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed most Americans blame the Republicans for the breakdown.
After the third meeting on Tuesday, White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta told reporters that talks were "at an impasse." Wednesday morning, House Speaker Newt Gingrich said both sides are "not an inch closer" to reaching an agreement than they were when the talks began.
Emerging from the second meeting with Congressional budget chieftains, Panetta said various proposals and counter-proposals failed to meet either side's approval. For example, he said, Republicans had spurned an offer by President Clinton to commit to a balanced budget in a range of seven to 10 years.
Senate Budget Chairman Pete Domenici said there were no immediate plans to reconvene the talks. Staff contacts, he said, would continue. (48K AIFF sound or 48K WAV sound)
The stalemate means that there is no agreement on raising the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, who was at the meeting, said he will take steps Wednesday to keep the government from defaulting, but he did not go into specifics.
At an afternoon news briefing, Clinton said it was his "solemn responsibility to stand against a budget plan that is bad for America."
The president said the cuts the Republicans had appended to two bills to keep the government running were "unwise," and that he could not accept them "under pressure." "We can balance the budget without deep cuts in education, without deep cuts in the environment, without letting Medicare die on the vine," Clinton said.
Republicans swiftly responded with their own news conference, saying that Clinton's posture doesn't make reaching a settlement any easier. Domenici accused the president of using "half truths," while Senate Majority leader Robert Dole said, "Those who have been criticizing and falsely stating what the facts are will be the losers."
House Speaker Newt Gingrich said if the president wants a stopgap measure that will keep the government running without including any cuts, the Republicans may give it to him by attaching it to their budget bill now moving through Congress. (88K AIFF sound or 88K WAV sound) Gingrich said he expected that bill to pass by Friday.
Earlier Tuesday, the Republicans, faced with a barrage of negative ratings in public opinion polls, were pushing for a compromise. They said they would require President Clinton to agree only to balance the budget in seven years.
Panetta, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Domenici and House Budget Chairman John Kasich met for more than an hour Tuesday but made little headway, except promising to meet again later in the day. (88K AIFF sound or 88K WAV sound)
Domenici emerged from the hour-long session Tuesday saying, "We have not agreed on anything yet, but we both are now going to engage in some further fact finding and presentation of ideas."
Panetta agreed it was "a very good discussion." "There's a good group in there that talked not only about the present crisis that faces the country; we also talked about trying to reach a balanced budget, and how best to get there."
The question of how best to get there has deeply polarized the two sides and contributed tremendously to the impasse. Republicans believe the only way to balance the budget in seven years is to slash funds for Medicare and Medicaid, education and the environment. But Clinton, armed with more optimistic economic forecasts, thinks such cuts are unnecessary and unacceptable.
Republicans said they were willing to pull Medicare premium amendments from their budget bill if the president agrees to shorten his nine-year timetable to balance the budget. "We're willing to pull it if they will agree to a balanced budget over seven years, honestly scored," Gingrich said. "It's not smoke and mirrors, it's not gimmicks, it's not typical Washington baloney."
In his briefing, Clinton repeatedly stressed that he wants to balance the budget, but made no mention of seven years.
As the partial government shutdown went into effect Tuesday morning, hundreds of thousands of federal workers were sent home, not knowing when they would return to work -- or when they would get paid.
The impact of the shutdown varied at each agency. About 20 percent of State Department employees were able to remain at work. Only 90 of the 430 workers at the White House executive operations stayed on the job.
At the Pentagon, around 260,000 workers were temporarily laid off. All essential employees still remain on the job. "National security is not at risk," said Pentagon Comptroller John Hamre.
In Atlanta's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a worker described the impasse as " a group of boys playing little boy games."
And, while the top politicans continue their shadow boxing, monuments, museums and national parks are closed, and some 800,000 workers remain unpaid.
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