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Senators offer bi-partisan budget plan

talks over breakfast

December 21, 1995
Web posted at: 1:51 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Seventeen senators appeared together in the Senate gallery Thursday to announce a bi-partisan, compromise budget plan. Sens. John Chafee, R-Rhode Island, and John Breaux, D-Louisiana, are the lead sponsors of the new plan to balance the federal budget in seven years.

The new plan is based on Congressional Budget Office figures, as is the Republican plan currently on the table. The new plan includes a $130 billion tax cut -- lower than the Republican's $243 billion cut but higher than President Clinton's $63 billion slash.

Breaux and Chafee say they have reviewed the plan with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici and White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, and are hopeful that it will help restart budget talks.

Domenici and House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich met with Panetta over breakfast Thursday morning. Kasich and Domenici were pessimistic about hopes for the talks after the meeting, but sources at the White House said that the three could meet again Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday's budget discussions slowly crumbled during a day that began with a little hope -- and ended with a little hope. In between, there was plenty of acrimony.

First, defiant House Republicans made passing a continuing resolution -- required to re-open closed parts of government -- contingent on getting a balanced-budget agreement first. They shouted their approval for a resolution sponsored by Rep. Scott Klug, R-Wisconsin, which held that Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Dole, and House Speaker Gingrich should thrash out a seven-year balanced-budget agreement using Congressional Budget Office numbers. Only then, they declared, would they pass a CR.

According to Klug, House Republicans were sending a "strong signal" to their leaders that while they represent them in the negotiations, "there is not a top-down strategy here, and never has been."

Minutes later, an angry Clinton said the Republican resolution ran counter to an agreement he made with Dole and Gingrich to work toward ending the impasse. (136K AIFF sound or 136K WAV sound)

Mike McCurry

"To summarize, we've gone through 24 hours where we probably lost a little ground from where we were last night,"

-- White House spokesman Mike McCurry

President Clinton"The most extreme members of the House of Representatives rejected that agreement," Clinton said. "A lot of them will be very happy about this because they don't feel we ought to have a government up here anyway." (179K AIFF sound or 179K WAV sound)

At a news briefing, Clinton wondered whether Gingrich had enough influence with his conservative troops. "The tail will keep wagging the dog," he said. The House move apparently derailed a second meeting between the three leaders that had been planned for Wednesday.

The exasperated president said he now doesn't know who he is supposed to negotiate with. "This is a very troubling development," Clinton said. "The president and the leaders of the two chambers of Congress reached an agreement on a matter great national urgency. But a small minority in the House of Representatives is determined to keep the government closed until they get exactly their way." (247K AIFF sound or 247K WAV sound)

Newt Gingrich

But Gingrich denied there was any deal with Clinton. When asked what was next in the long budget stalemate, which has furloughed 260,000 federal workers, Gingrich replied, "Beats me." The partial federal shutdown now threatens to delay veterans' benefits and welfare checks in January.

Clinton also stressed that any budget agreement would be scored with Congressional Budget Office numbers, in keeping with the Republican demand.

Leon Panetta

White House chief of staff Leon Panetta had planned to resume preliminary talks with House Budget Chairman John Kasich and Senate Budget Chairman Peter Dominici Wednesday night, but the meeting was rescheduled for Thursday.

Clinton, Dole and Gingrich spoke by telephone for about 10 minutes later on Wednesday, and all sides agreed the conversation was useful.

"To summarize, we've gone through 24 hours where we probably lost a little ground from where we were last night," White House spokesman Mike McCurry said.

At a news conference earlier, GOP freshmen said remarks by Vice President Al Gore had cast doubt on the administration's sincerity about using CBO figures. Gore had said Tuesday that Clinton would not be reconfiguring his latest proposal using CBO estimates.

Gingrich rebuffed claims that he'd lost control of his members. He said he considered the resolution "very positive," and that it meant the House Republicans were simply going on record saying the time to balance the budget is now.

The House speaker said he and Dole are prepared to "go down to the White House, roll up our sleeves and meet continuously until we get this done," as the resolution directed. (247K AIFF sound or 247K WAV sound)

Earlier Wednesday, Panetta had met with Gingrich and the chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees to try to decide on a framework for an agreement on a seven-year, balanced budget. The meetings were intended to pave the way for another round of face-to-face discussions by Clinton, Gingrich, and Dole.

"Obviously, some problems have developed with our ability to get the principals to the table," Panetta said after emerging from Gingrich's office.


Panetta said Republicans had agreed Tuesday night that if the two sides could set a schedule and an agenda for negotiating a balanced budget, then Congress would pass a temporary spending measure to recall 260,000 furloughed federal employees and restart operations at nine partially shutdown federal agencies.

"It appears that there are members (in the House) that oppose that approach," Panetta said.

On Tuesday, Gingrich and Dole had declared a two-hour White House session with Clinton "constructive." Gingrich had said it was a "very important step in the right direction."

The drawn out battle between congressional Republicans and the president over Medicare and Medicaid savings, spending cuts and tax reductions has shut down parts of the government twice within as many months. Wednesday was the fifth day of the latest closing.

Democrats said the following four proposals would likely be on the table when Clinton, Gingrich, and Dole meet again:

  • A Republican proposal that includes $245 billion in tax cuts.

  • A proposal from a bipartisan group of Senate moderates containing smaller tax cuts.

  • A plan from House Democratic conservatives with no tax cuts.

  • A new plan from Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, also with no tax cuts.

    The Daschle plan would be the most generous toward social programs, preserving welfare and the Medicare and Medicaid health programs for the elderly and poor.

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