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Budget battle continues as new deadline nears

December 11, 1995
Web posted at: 12:05 a.m. EST

From White House Correspondent Claire Shipman

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republicans are saying they will offer a new budget by the end of the week using adjusted economic forecasts that should make the balancing somewhat easier. But White House officials are skeptical.

Sunday, with less than a week before the government's spending authority expires, there was little easing of the debate over priorities.

Enjoying an otherwise low-key weekend in Arkansas, President Clinton kept up the budget drumbeat. Working to rally Florida Democrats by satellite, he declared that nothing less than the heart and soul of the nation are at stake in the budget battle with Republicans.

Bill Clinton

"They want to strip the national government of its ability to protect and advance the interest of the elderly and the children and the disabled people in this country,...That is what is going on here."

-- President Clinton
136K AIFF sound or 136K WAV sound

In recent days, Clinton's defense of the nation's health program for the poor, elderly and disabled has become central to the budget debate, and could force another government shutdown if no agreement is reached by Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, going into a Sunday strategy session with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, accused the President of theatrics.

"I think he seized on some political effort here to frighten senior citizens and other low income Americans who must rely on Medicaid," Dole said.

Republicans hope to shave $163 billion from Medicaid over seven years and cede responsibility for the health insurance program to the states. The president says that figure is three times the size of what is necessary. For now, the administration says its holding firm.

Even if differences over Medicaid are resolved, several sticking points remain: the size and direction of tax cuts and which economic estimates should be used to balance the budget.

Behind the scenes, neither side is hopeful about a deal by Friday, the day the current temporary spending measure expires. With the deadline nearing, the blame game is already starting.

"It's up to the Congressional leadership to determine whether or not they want to compromise, or whether they want to do what they did before Thanksgiving and force a shutdown,." said Vice President Al Gore. (153K AIFF sound or 153K WAV sound)

"We think the time to get the balanced budget done and welfare reform done is now," said Gingrich. "We owe our children and our country the Christmas gift of balancing the budget and reforming welfare this week." (94K AIFF sound or 94K WAV sound)

Amidst the budget rhetoric, economists say balancing the budget would prove a much easier task if either side had the political courage to put two of the biggest ticket items -- defense and Social Security -- on the table.


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