January 11, 1996
Web posted at: 10:50 p.m. EST
"We're really a long way apart. Maybe not in the numbers game, but in the policy game."
-- Bob Dole, Senate Majority Leader
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton said Thursday that despite some "thorny difficulties," he and the GOP could reach a seven-year balanced budget agreement. But House Speaker Newt Gingrich remained pessimistic, and accused the president of misleading the American public over the budget battle.
"A historic agreement on a balanced budget is within reach if we set aside partisanship and seize this moment," Clinton said at his first formal news conference in five months. "I'm telling you, we're not that far apart."
But for the first time Thursday, Clinton publicly promoted the option of a partial balanced-budget agreement, and said the most contentious issues should perhaps be left for the American people to decide in November's elections.
"We can balance the budget," he said. "In order to do that, some of the differences between me and the Congress over some of these issues will have to be taken out of that budget agreement and deferred for the elections. But that's what elections are for."
"What has held up this agreement is the insistence of the Republicans on ... things that are not necessary to balance the budget."(323K AIFF sound or 323K WAV sound)
"I'm committed to getting a balanced budget ... but no deal is better than a bad deal."(255K AIFF sound or 255K WAV sound)
Addressing a news conference in Seattle to respond to Clinton's statements, Gingrich criticized the president for contending that Republicans want big cuts in government health care spending on Medicare and Medicaid.
Using an easel and a marking pen to illustrate his point, Gingrich said the Republican plan actually called for substantial increases in those two programs.
"I'm prepared to negotiate seriously," Gingrich told reporters. "But if we're going to negotiate seriously, let's start with the facts and let's not just make up political phrases."
Gingrich said Wednesday the budget stalemate may remain unresolved until November, and that Republicans were looking at the possibility of approving temporary spending bills that would keep the government in business. The current short-term spending bill expires January 26.
He said he spoke with Clinton Thursday about the impact of pessimistic budget predictions on financial markets, which plummeted nearly 100 points Wednesday. "We don't want to upset the markets. We don't want people to lose money. We do want a balanced budget."
When Clinton and congressional Republicans suspended budget talks Tuesday, big differences remained on Medicare and Medicaid spending and the size of a tax cut.
Clinton still plans to meet next week with Republican leaders to try and break the deadlock, White House spokesperson Mike McCurry said.
An agreement, McCurry said, "is possible, but it's not definite."
AP contributed to this report.
Copyright © 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.