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Budget talks wait for New Year's break

December 31, 1995

dougherty From Correspondent Jill Dougherty
Web posted at: 8:45 p.m. EST

Leaders meeting WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The New Year will dawn with the federal government still partially shut down, thousands of federal workers off the job, and political leaders on a New Year's break. But there may be some movement toward a budget agreement.

After three days and nearly 15 hours of talks, the president and congressional leaders have completed their exhaustive analysis of budget issues and are prepared for some hard bargaining next week.

The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-Arizona, said as the participants left the White House for New Year's observations that Sunday's talks made "good progress on a lot of fronts." Domenici and other Republicans said they had high hopes for a resolution when talks resume on Tuesday.

Gingrch "If we could both get a balanced budget and get everyone back to work and pay them their back pay, I think it would be a terrific opening week for the new year," said House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Georgia. "And we really have real hopes of getting it done in the first couple of days of the new year." (118K AIFF sound or 118K WAV sound)

Aides said the leaders had defined areas of agreement and disagreement on Medicare, Medicaid, tax and investment issues. And both sides said that Tuesday potentially could be a day of big decisions.

"My new year's wish is that we'll get this balanced budget plan and we'll do it in a way that protects the things we care about -- Medicare and Medicaid, education, environment, the other issues," said President Clinton. "And we've been working on it."

But even as the political leaders discussed the budget, 280,000 federal workers remained on furlough.

Schonman "I'm not just frustrated," said Gary Schonman, a furloughed employee of the Federal Communications Commission. "I'm livid over the intransigence of this Congress. It's absolutely shameful for every member of Congress and the president to put federal government workers in this position." (149K AIFF sound or 149K WAV sound)

The Senate tried, but failed, to reach agreement on a plan that would put those workers back on the job -- albeit without pay.

"I regret we were unable to come to some kind of agreement today, but we haven't given up," said Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole when it was evident that Republicans would not accept changes made in the measure to mollify Democrats. "We'll come back Tuesday and hopefully by then we'll have an agreement."

And federal workers weren't the only ones frustrated with Washington politics. As the longest partial government shutdown in history continued, 11 states had exhausted their federal funds for unemployment; 36 million Medicaid beneficiaries were facing the prospect that the program would run out of federal money; and hundreds of thousands of elderly citizens were facing a halt in the Meals-on-Wheels program.

But for two days, the budget talks will be on hold. Clinton is in South Carolina for a policy gathering of moderates and liberals, Gingrich is home in Georgia, and Dole is in New Hampshire for some presidential campaigning.

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