November 16, 1995
Web posted at: 11 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Faced with a seemingly intractable budget deadlock, President Clinton Thursday began authorizing the re-opening of certain parts of the government. Starting Monday, around 50,000 workers in the Social Security and Veterans Benefits administrations will be back at work to clear the backlog of applications that has piled up since the shutdown began Tuesday.
Originally deemed as "non-essential," 50,000 Social Security workers and 1,700 V.A. workers were re-designated "essential." On an average day, the Social Security administration handles more than 28,000 new applications for benefits. The Veterans Administration processes more than 1,600 new benefits claims.
Clinton told reporters Thursday that if these departments remained idle, the backlog would become so great that services could not return to normal for months.
The Department of Transportation also opened its doors Thursday, calling in 22,000 workers of its 63,000 workers after President Clinton signed the $37 billion funding measure -- the first money bill signed by him since the shutdown started.
Still, major portions of the government remained shut down, and around 750,000 workers were forced to stay home. With the State Department closed, roughly 22,000 passport applications are going unattended each day.
Verbal boxing continues
In Washington, the shutdown promised to extend to a fourth day, with neither the Republicans nor Clinton overcoming their wall of differences.
The president said he was sending Congress his own proposal for re-opening the U.S. government without strings, but Republicans said they would reject it.
Clinton swore anew to veto a new continuing resolution passed by the Republican-controlled House early Thursday, and later passed 60-37 in the Republican-led Senate.
Seven Democratic senators voted for the measure, and 48 Democrats supported it in the House. The stopgap spending bill is designed to provide funds to reopen the closed parts of the government.
Clinton said he would veto the bill because it would still commit him to make unacceptable cuts in programs he supports. The bill drops the clause amending Medicare premiums the White House had found objectionable, but adds one that requires the budget to be balanced in seven years.
"If I were to sign the seven-year plan, in effect, I would be approving (their budget) cuts," Clinton said. "I won't do that because I believe it would be bad for America."
He said the American people should no longer be held "hostage" to Republican budget priorities. That's why, he said, he was sending Congress "straightforward legislation that would reopen the government without delay, and without enacting into law the Republican budget."
At a GOP news briefing later, Gingrich rebutted Clinton's charge that Republicans were seeking to cut Medicare. Gingrich said Clinton was using information that "is not factually correct."
Senate Majority Leader Dole said Clinton "doesn't want a balanced budget. That's the issue."
Republicans expect to finish voting on their version of a balanced budget bill by Friday, but White House chief Leon Panetta said it, too, would be dead on arrival.
"Let's sit down and negotiate," Panetta said. "It may come out at eight years, it may come out at nine years. It may come out at 10 years. Let us protect Medicare, Medicaid, let us protect education, let us not tax working families. I think there are some common objectives here. But you can't get to them until you get to a table. They can't use a short-cut to get their budget adopted. And that is what is happening now."
Budget crisis forces Grand Canyon to close
The budget crisis is hitting some popular tourist and camping grounds.
For the first time in its 76-year-old history, the Grand Canyon closed Thursday, and visitors were confronted with barricades on park roads.
Campers and guests have until tomorrow to leave, and no new reservations are being made.
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