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Partial government shutdown turns to partial reopening

January 6, 1996
Web posted at: 2:15 p.m.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With more budget negotiations scheduled for Saturday afternoon, federal employees were back on the job at many government locations. But the funding measure passed by Congress just before midnight and signed by the president shortly afterward may put workers back on the job while leaving them without funds to take care of business.

Burns The three-week partial shutdown cost the U.S. government more than 11 million employee work hours per week -- leaving a backlog of passport applications, visas, veterans compensation claims, statistics, and even unplaced gravestones.

"Our backlog of passport applications from American citizens has now exceeded 200,000," said Nicholas Burns, spokesman for State Department, which also handles visas.

The Veterans Affairs Department reported that 60,000 veterans graves are awaiting headstones, while 400,000 compensation claims are pending. At the Bureau of Labor Statistics, key economic figures are still delayed by spending limitations.

And then there's the mail: at the U.S. Geological Survey's national center alone, 29 pallets of mail sit unopened, waiting for Monday morning.

Still, when workers go back to their offices Monday, many won't be able to do their jobs because Congress authorized funds for very little beyond salaries. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency won't be able to pay contractors who work on its Superfund hazardous waste clean- up sites.

"I'll be able to go back to work, but we won't be able to clean up the sites," said Kirby Briggs, a Superfund supervisor. "There'll be no money to mobilize the contractors."

air+space museum Regardless of the spending limitations, though, visitors were happy to find many museums, monuments and parks open at last, although the budge stalemate was far from over.

President Clinton and Republican Congressional leaders sounded conciliatory but continued word-battles aimed at convincing the U.S. electorate that the other is responsible for the impasse.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, Clinton said that "decision time" had arrived, and called on Congressional Republicans to "put national interest above narrow interests" in the budget debate.

Clinton "I appeal to Congress to put aside partisanship and craft a balanced budget that upholds our values and reflects the common ground the American people have decided on," Clinton said. (More from Clinton - 216K AIFF sound or 216K WAV sound)

Senate Majority Leader and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, in the Republicans' radio address, said that he too hoped that both sides "can put partisan politics aside and reach an agreement that will balance the budget."

Dole "But if the president won't agree to balance the budget, Republicans will welcome support from Democrats who share our determination win the fight for America's future," he said. (164K AIFF sound or 164K WAV sound)

Republicans and the White House still face a wide gap in their positions, most notably on how deeply to cut taxes and squeeze savings from Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs. But both the president and Congress have shown some signs of giving.

House Republicans said Friday they would go along with a group of House Republicans to reduce the savings they wanted from Medicare by $60 billion, down to $158 billion. And Republicans say the president has indicated that he may present a balanced budget based on Congressional Budget Office calculations -- a key Republican demand -- as early as this weekend.

If that happens, said House Speaker Newt Gingrich, "we would then have the full government operating by Monday morning."

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