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Budget impasse continues amid mix of pessimism and hope

December 22, 1995
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Budget talks between Congressional Republicans and the Clinton administration continued Friday, starting with a low level meeting -- followed by a White House meeting in the afternoon.

The face-to-face budget meeting included President Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt.

Negotiations had broken off late Thursday with a terse statement from the advisory group. "We met through the afternoon," the statement said. "The meetings were constructive. We have established a schedule."

Administration officials hoped Friday's meeting would lead to short-term spending legislation to end the partial government shutdown, which entered its seventh day Friday.



Breaux

"It is time to stop the madness that has caused our federal government to shut down, to send home workers and curtail services."

-- Sen. John Breaux, D-Louisiana


Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici described as "excellent" a Thursday breakfast meeting between he, White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, and House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich. (41K AIFF sound or 41K WAV sound) Domenici said some progress had been made, and after the meeting, the three negotiators announced Friday's face-to-face session between Clinton and the Republican leadership.

meeting

But later in the day, House GOP Conference Chairman John Boehner, reflecting the view of Kasich, gave the breakfast meeting a negative report. Talking to reporters after a GOP Conference meeting, Boehner said it was "not clear" whether the White House was serious about meeting its commitment to a seven-year balanced budget. (204K AIFF sound or 204K WAV sound)

Boehner said it could take "several days ... as long as several months" to resolve the budget impasse.

Gingrich

Gingrich, speaking later, said he was more hopeful. "I believe in two or three days of very hard work we could have a balanced budget agreement," he said. "I'm very prepared. Senator Dole is very prepared to stay here over the weekend, to continue to work all weekend."

Gingrich acknowledged that Kasich was "frustrated" on the budget issue. "He's spent over a month trying to get the Clinton administration to do what they promised to do last November," Gingrich said. (145K AIFF sound or 145K WAV sound)

Dole said it really shouldn't be too hard to resolve the major outstanding issues. "There are really not that many big ones," he said. "They are Medicare, Medicaid, tax cuts, and some very important provisions that need to be addressed." (102K AIFF sound or 102K WAV sound)

But both Boehner and Gingrich maintained that no stopgap measure would be passed to reopen closed parts of government until there was a balanced-budget plan was completed.

That view had been endorsed unanimously Wednesday by House Republicans, but some moderates -- including Dole in the Senate -- began to waver Thursday.

Rep. Steven Schiff, R-New Mexico, said if Clinton issued a detailed seven-year plan that reached balance and was scored by the Congressional Budget Office, Republicans might yield. "I would move for a two-week CR," he said.

CR is an abbreviation for Continuing Resolution -- the technical name for a temporary spending bill -- which would allow the government to reopen while a permanent agreement is thrashed out.

Dole also said Thursday that he was considering allowing a vote on a measure that would temporarily send federal employees back to work. But the idea was rejected by other more hard-line Republicans, including Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, who said workers should stay off the job until a balanced budget is passed and signed by the president.

Meanwhile, time ran out for benefit checks to be mailed on time to millions of veterans and families on welfare. The agencies that provide the checks remained shut down without temporary spending legislation.

But hopes for a quick and early resolution on the impasse appeared dismal -- the House, in a vote along party lines, will recess from Friday night until Wednesday, although the members could be called back for a budget vote.

On Thursday, both sides asked six governors -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- to help them crack one of the most contentious issues: who will control Medicaid, the federal government or the states?

To help bridge those differences, moderate Democrats and Republicans are coming up with some new compromise proposals that will also be on the table.

Sen. John Breaux, D-Louisiana, said he had had enough. "It is time to stop the madness that has caused our federal government to shut down, to send home workers and curtail services. Today, this centrist coalition offers a way out." (170K AIFF sound or 170K WAV sound)

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