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Budget talks: Closer but still far apart

Budget Shipman

January 10, 1996
Web posted at: 12:30 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Claire Shipman and wire reports

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With federal budget talks suspended for a week, Republican congressional leaders say they may try to bypass the White House and pass veto-proof spending legislation with the help of conservative Democrats.


"There are a lot of Democrats on Capitol Hill who truly do want to balance the budget, unlike ... the White House, where they've got every excuse in the world why we shouldn't," Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Republican Conference, told CNN. But in a separate interview, White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta said Wednesday the effort would not succeed. "We feel pretty confident about our ability to hold conservative Democrats."

President Clinton and the Republicans decided to take a break from negotiations Tuesday after another lengthy budget session at the White House that failed to resolve major differences over the future of Medicare and Medicaid spending and the size of a tax cut. (162K AIFF sound or 162K WAV sound)

"There is a desire by the Republicans ... to get a tax cut that approaches $200 billion," Panetta told CNN Wednesday morning. He said a tax cut of that size would require cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment that Clinton is not willing to accept.


"You can't balance the budget the way the president did."

--Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio

"Our plan is reasonable and responsible ... (and would) .... reduce the rate of Medicare, Medicaid and welfare," Boehner said. (230K AIFF sound or 230K WAV sound) The White House budget plan "looks good on paper," he said, "... but every budget expert in Washington, Democrat and Republican, has looked at that proposal and laughed, because they know that fundamentally you can't balance the budget the way the president did. You have to have fundamental reform of entitlement programs if you are serious about balancing the budget."

Recess, not a breakdown

Despite the differences, Panetta said he did not consider the talks to have broken down. They are in "recess ... we are within $100 billion of arriving at an agreement," he said. But without a budget deal, there's a possibility that many government offices once again will be forced to close on January 27, when the latest temporary federal funding measure expires. There already have been two partial government shutdowns since the budget talks began in earnest in November, furloughing some federal workers for a record total of 27 days.

Another partial shutdown would be "tragic", Panetta said, adding that the White House was informed that the previous shutdown cost the federal government $1.2 billion. He did not elaborate. "(A shutdown) works against everything the Republicans say they are for," he said.

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Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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