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Moderates try to bridge budget gap

Partial federal shutdown heads into second day

closed monument

December 17, 1995
Web posted at: 12:45 a.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With a partial government shutdown entering its second day and budget talks between the White House and the GOP paralyzed, it was left to small, unofficial congressional groups to attempt to jump-start the negotiations again.

A bi-partisan group of Senate moderates said a "quiet revolution" was brewing to cool the acrimony and resume a dialogue. They said they have crafted a new plan to balance the budget in seven years, which they will present Sunday in a meeting with budget negotiators.

moderates

The ad hoc moderate group, led by Sens. John Chafee, R-Rhode Island, and John Breaux, D-Los Angeles, said they have developed a seven-year balanced-budget plan based on the economic projections of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in keeping with the Republicans' demand.

Giving a sketchy outline of the proposal, the senators said their plan slashes the size of the GOP-proposed tax cut and would impose cuts in programs like Medicare and Medicaid that are smaller than those sought by Republicans but larger than those offered by the White House.

Sen. Breaux called upon the deadlocked negotiators to follow the example of the Bosnia peace accord. "This week we signed a Paris peace treaty," he said. "It is now time to sign a Washington peace treaty." (162K AIFF sound or 162K WAV sound)

blue dogs

A separate group of 21 conservative Democrats called the "Blue Dogs" held discussions with Republicans and Democrats alike. They too have drafted a proposal that they believe will meet the demands of the two sides half-way.

"We're trying to make a good faith effort," said Rep. Gary Condit, who leads the group. "There's no undermining going on here. We are trying to find a solution."

Republicans said it's easier to deal with the unofficial groups than with the White House." The problem we have is there has been so much bad faith that we have had to suspend the negotiations," said House budget committee chairman John Kasich. (102K AIFF sound or 102K WAV sound)

The season's spirit of reconciliation was noticeably absent among key budget negotiators as each side once again blamed the other for the partial shutdown.

Dole accuses Clinton of 'spewing garbage'

medicaid

As has been the case all year, the biggest impasse between the two sides was over the GOP's demand for spending reductions in Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, education and other domestic programs that Clinton says go too far. Also at issue is a GOP tax cut that Clinton says is too large and too generous to the rich.

"I am not going to let them hurt our children," Clinton said during his weekly radio address, vowing to prevent proposed GOP cuts in health, education, and waste-cleanup programs.

Bob Dole

"He can stop that garbage he's been spewing on his radio program and everything else," fumed Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kansas, when asked what Clinton could do to restart negotiations.

House Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston told CNN that without a budget breakthrough, the soonest a vote would take place on a temporary spending measure to keep the government fully functioning would be sometime Monday. That means 280,000 federal employees would face a furlough when they report to work Monday morning.

Clinton Democrats

The Democrats laboring to find a middle ground also found themselves divided. Participants said Clinton was resisting appeals from many lawmakers that he drop or severely pare down his proposed tax cut.

Some Democrats wanted to endorse a plan proposed by the Blue Dogs, while others wanted to back a proposal with gentler cuts by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, and Sen. James Exon, ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee. Both plans forego tax cuts.

Democrats planned to continue their effort to agree on a new package Sunday.

Washington monument

Republicans also considered their next move in a series of meetings in the Capitol. But they said they would not budge from their longtime demand: that Clinton produce a budget that balances over seven years using Congressional economic calculations. Clinton's budget eliminates the deficit by 2002, but uses more optimistic White House economic projections.

The political fallout of this latest failure to get a budget passed remained to be seen. Opinion polls showed that people blamed Republicans for the first shutdown by a 2-1 margin.

The bitter budget stalemate led the Senate's chaplain, Dr. Lloyd Ogilvie, to seek divine intervention. Noting that the Senate has become a combat zone over the balanced budget, he prayed, "Give us courage to replace party spirit with a spirit of patriotism."

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