January 3, 1996
Web posted at: 12:30 a.m. EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate unanimously approved a measure to reopen the government Tuesday. Aimed at ending the record 18-day shutdown and returning 260,000 employees to work, the legislation will now be considered by the House, which has stiffly resisted reopening the government without a budget agreement on the table.
The measure, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kansas, would fund the government through January 12 at last year's pay levels. The House vote is expected Wednesday.
"People have been gone from their jobs long enough," said Dole, who is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. "Enough is enough."
Clinton and a bi-partisan Congressional leadership, including Dole and House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Georgia, held discussions for over three hours at the White House late Tuesday evening, managing to squeeze in a soup and pasta dinner.
"Our talks continue to make progress," negotiators said in a joint statement. All sides apparently agreed to not divulge details of the discussions to the media and to resume talks Wednesday.
Before the meeting, President Clinton praised the Senate's decision to reopen the government and said he hoped the House would follow suit.
As the meeting began, Gingrich was non-committal about whether the House would pass the measure, saying only that he would discuss Tuesday evening's meeting with House Republicans on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, however, Gingrich predicted the shutdown would end only when there was a seven-year balanced budget accord, underscoring differences between the GOP-dominated Senate and House on the issue.
"I don't think the House GOPs are going to agree to avoid dealing with getting to a balanced budget," he said.
Gingrich spokesman Tony Blankley told The Associated Press that the Senate measure "can't possibly pass the House." "It has no chance in the House, and everybody understands that," he was quoted as saying. He was reported as saying that the bill was "a tactical judgment for the Senate."
Dole conceded that some House members did not share his opinion that it was time to end the shutdown. "They feel this (the closure) is helpful in bringing about a balanced budget," he said. "That's not my view."
"In the next few weeks, the shutdown could mean that states literally get left holding the bag on Medicaid, that community health centers are forced to turn away the sick, that Head start children get locked out of their program, that vital services for seniors simply evaporate and that more private sector workers join federal workers sitting on the sidelines."
-- Donna Shalala
With 260,000 federal workers idling and unpaid since December 15 and another 500,000 at work without pay, the pressure to return the workers to work has been mounting.
The Senate also passed an alternative measure that would send employees back to work, but without pay.
Two federal unions have gone to court asking federal Judge Emmet Sullivan to bar the government from requiring employees to work without pay. A ruling is expected Wednesday.
It's not only federal employees who are being affected by the budget stalemate. Beginning Tuesday, contractors to the Medicare program and Meals on Wheels will not be paid for services. Democrats said that will result in thousands of hot meals not being delivered to senior citizens and the possible disruption of Medicare services.
Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, in a joint news conference with House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt, painted an ominous picture of what a continued partial government closure could mean.
"In the next few weeks, the shutdown could mean that states literally get left holding the bag on Medicaid, that community health centers are forced to turn away the sick, that Head start children get locked out of their program, that vital services for seniors simply evaporate and that more private sector workers join federal workers sitting on the sidelines," Shalala said.
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