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Broad review under way in budget talks


Top officials to jump back in Friday

December 28, 1995
Web posted at: 3:40 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Jill Dougherty and wire reports

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional and administration staff members were reviewing topics of agreement and disagreement Thursday as they tried to pave the way for Friday's planned resumption of budget talks by top officials.


More than 280,000 federal workers remained off the job Thursday, the 13th day of the latest partial government shutdown, as did most of the people responsible for resolving the budget disagreement.

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said Thursday's low-level discussions, scheduled to last most of the day, were aimed at reviewing all of the major outstanding issues and preparing an outline of important topics for budget negotiators to review.

Friday morning's budget negotiations are to include White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta; Director of the Office and Management and Budget Alice Rivlin; and the congressional budget chairmen, Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico.

A meeting is tentatively scheduled for later Friday between President Clinton, Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and several Congressional democrats.

'Significant problems' remain

Clinton has been following the staff discussions closely and has been in "fairly regular contact" with Rivlin, according to McCurry.


"The president is very anxious to break this impasse and to get the services of government restored and, as a separate question, reach agreement on a balanced budget plan," McCurry said.

"We have significant problems that go beyond the services being that are being denied," he said. "They go to morale. They go to the critical services of government that are on the verge of being suspended." He cited federal prison guards not being paid and possible suspension of hot meals for the elderly.

Yesterday while campaigning in Iowa, Dole said there was a 50-50 chance of a budget agreement outline will be ready by Saturday. McCurry said, with a slight chuckle, the White House would concur with that assessment, "which is that it could go either way."

Clinton, Dole and Gingrich met last Friday, but failed to reach an agreement to end the shutdown. However, the House and Senate then passed, and Clinton signed, bills to keep benefit checks flowing for veterans and welfare recipients under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children and foster care and adoption services. The bills also provided money to keep services in the District of Columbia functioning.

McCurry said Clinton was expected to veto a defense authorization measure later Thursday. He said the bill, for $7 billion more than Clinton wants, would authorize funding for weapons systems the Pentagon doesn't want and would go against nuclear arms-reduction treaties.

Federal workers fed up

Linda Kaufman Kathleen Monahan

While Congressman and budget negotiators, who will be paid during the government shutdown, are still taking a holiday vacation, 760,000 federal workers in unfunded agencies, including the 280,000 on furlough, will receive only partial paychecks. Many national parks and museums are closed.

Although McCurry said Clinton is concerned about morale plunging among federal workers, an administration official doubted enough progress could be made to get all federal employees back on the job by the opening of business next week.

The situation is getting old for many furloughed federal employees, who say they dislike being made to feel they are unimportant. "We feel like we're performing a real service but we're not appreciated," said furloughed employee Linda Kaufman.

Employees' feelings range from anger towards the government to worry about how they will live without getting paid. "I'm frustrated," said Venetta Gibson, an employee at the Office of Housing and Urban Development. "I'm angry. I'm also to the point where I'm stressed out. ... The Congress is playing around with our lives now."

One of Gibson's coworkers at HUD, Kathleen Monahan said, "It makes it really difficult financially to plan. The mortgage companies don't care if you have a shortened paycheck and neither do your creditors. ... It's difficult for us. It's difficult for everybody." (196K AIFF sound or 196K WAV sound)

Kaufman said that dealing with the shutdown so close to Christmas makes things even more difficult. "Most of us work paycheck to paycheck," she said, "so I'm going to have to call my creditors and tell them I'm a federal employee and tell them that it's going to be a little late." (162K AIFF sound or 162K WAV sound)

AP and Reuters contributed to this story.

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