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Clinton and Republicans propose talks on budget

December 18, 1995
Web posted at: 10:15 p.m. EST

From Correspondents Irv Chapman and Wolf Blitzer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A quarter of a million federal workers stayed home nationwide Monday as the budget stalemate between the White House and Congress continued.

Museums and portions of federal agencies and departments remained closed for the third day after the government's emergency spending resolution expired.

Newt Gingrich

There were no talks to end the stalemate, although there was talk of future talks.

Monday afternoon Clinton spoke by phone with Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole and House Speaker Newt Gingrich with what he called new ideas toward a balanced budget deal.

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said the president offered to meet directly with Republican leaders, without preconditions, to work out a deal.

The Republicans counter-offered with a request to meet with Clinton "to discuss fulfillment of the commitment (Clinton) made 29 days ago to enact a seven-year balanced budget using non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates."

Bob Dole

"We do not view this as a negotiating session," Dole and Gingrich said in a joint statement issued after their meeting with Republican leaders.

Clinton had also offered to submit a new budget proposal provided that the Republicans accept his budgetary goals for Medicaid and Medicare, but Republicans rejected the offer outright.

According to White House officials, the Republicans have proposed about $200 billion in Medicare savings over seven years, using the recently-revised CBO forecasting assumptions; Clinton has proposed $124 billion.

On Medicaid, the Republicans have proposed $110 billion; Clinton has proposed $54 billion.

The president, in his phone calls to both Gingrich and Dole, also appealed for immediate short-term legislation to reopen the government. But the president was not directly linking this to the broader negotiations.

"I am pleased that the president indicates a willingness now to accept our invitation to get serious about the budget, and balance the budget in seven years," Dole said after the phone conversation, which lasted about 10 minutes. .

Clinton vetoes bill

Earlier in the day, President Clinton invited a group of science students to watch him veto two spending bills which he described as too austere.

"Doing things that weaken our environment is not the way to balance the budget, and it's directly contradictory to the resolution that both the Congress and I agreed upon just a few weeks ago," Clinton told the class of sixth grade science students.

Throughout the day, Democrats and Republicans blamed each other for the hit the financial markets took Monday, just as they blamed each other for the continued budget impasse. U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, called the plunge in stocks and bonds on Wall Street the "Clinton Crash."

The Dow Jones industrial average suffered its biggest point loss in four years, dropping 101.52 points, and the benchmark 30-year Treasury bond dropped nearly 1.5 points.

Analysts had warned for months that without a balanced budget the markets would react badly.

Meanwhile, the House overwhelmingly passed a non-binding measure, reaffirming its goal of a seven-year balanced budget.

Republican leaders pointedly said that they might not agree to pay the roughly 260,000 government employees for their time off duty, suggesting the furloughed workers take their case to the president, not to Congress.

Reuter News Agency contributed to this report.

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