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White House says new budget is firm


December 7, 1995
Web posted at: 6 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House portrayed its new balanced-budget proposal Tuesday as not the beginning of negotiations, but the final word.

White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta met with House Democrats Thursday morning to offer a preview of the plan, which will be submitted to a negotiating team Thursday afternoon.

Panetta described it as a "seven-year balanced budget that protects the priorities that the president cares about," including Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment, and avoids raising taxes on working families.

He said the White House feels the plan is "enforceable" and meets the goals that both Republicans and Democrats committed to in November when they passed a continuing resolution to keep the government operating.

Panetta said he will propose extending the continuing resolution until the end of January, when he meets with budget negotiators. The temporary spending measure expires December 15.

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Panetta also talked about a proposed "lookback" provision, which would take measurements each year to determine whether the budget is on track to balance by 2002. "I think that's the key here, and I hope that the Republicans will work with us to design that," Panetta said. He declined to provide details of how the process would work.

Panetta refused to call the plan a beginning and said its terms were firm. "We have a $140 billion move here in going to a seven-year balanced budget, and this is not presented as a position from which to negotiate." (408K AIFF sound or 408K WAV sound)

Panetta said the hope is to get the process moving in order to prevent another government shutdown, especially at Christmas. He said that a shutdown would be unnecessary if progress was being made. "My hope would be that all of the negotiators and leadership agree not to hold innocent victims in this country hostage to these negotiations."

Some who attended the meeting characterized it as thorough and positive. "Across the spectrum from conservative to moderate, people in our caucus respect the direction that the administration is attempting to go, and I think without exception there was uniform encouragement for Leon today," said Rep. Vic Fazio, D-California.

Panetta said sharply criticized remarks earlier in the week by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who said the stock market may crash if the budget is not settled soon. "This is not a time for threats, or for raising those kinds of fears," Panetta said.

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