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Lessons learned from budget battle

dollar bills

The art of negotiation

November 21, 1995
Web posted at: 12:30 p.m. EST

Essay from Correspondent Charles Bierbauer


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With the federal budget battle at least temporarily resolved, Americans can celebrate Thanksgiving relieved that their elected representatives have come to their senses. But deciding who won and who lost the Washington confrontation is a matter of personal opinion. One man called it a draw. (56K AIFF sound or 56K WAV sound)

Newt Gingrich

But the bigger fight over a budget package is yet to come and may be resolved by Christmas. House Speaker Newt Gingrich promises a "good faith effort in, in the next three or four weeks to try to get to an agreement by December 15th." In President Clinton's view, the stopgap agreement that sent federal employees back to work on Monday "reflects my principles."

Bush & Dole

It's important for elected officials to keep in mind that principles are something voters take seriously. A principle was sacrificed in the 1990 budget summit when President Bush broke his pledge of no new taxes. The electorate's response was no new term. And so, a reminder for Clinton: this budget fight, too, leads to an election year. And a reminder, too, for Republicans: anything less than a balanced budget shortchanges their 'revolution'.

The balanced budget plan has achieved apple pie status. It's hard to be against it. Republicans have shaped it, sized it to unfold over seven years and decided its ingredients -- welfare, Medicare and tax cuts. But the Republicans and Democrats have not agreed how to slice it.

"This is a framework for negotiations. It preserves all of our options" said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota.

Perhaps, but Republicans still claim the upper hand. For example, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico criticized the White House for having no budget plan of its own. (112K AIFF sound or 112K WAV sound)

future generations

When the Republicans and the president agreed Sunday to negotiate a balanced budget, they broadly assured it would "protect future generations, provide adequate funding and help working families" but the philosophical differences for achieving those goals are just as broad.

A year of shouting and tumult, since the Republicans took control of Congress, has brought us to this point, where the end result of the Republican-led budget battle is just the start of negotiations with the White House.

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