Democrats, Republicans at it again

January 09, 1995|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- The political truce that President Clinton and the Republican majority in Congress declared late last week broke down in a war of words on the nation's TV talk shows yesterday as Democrats and Republicans clashed over spending cuts, taxes and a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget.

Accusing Mr. Clinton of firing the first shot by distorting the remarks that he and other GOP leaders made at a White House meeting Thursday, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Republican of Texas, said the president had "no connection with reality" when he suggested that the Republicans have conceded that the trickle-down economics of the Reagan era were a mistake.

"How can we reach out" to Democrats, Mr. Armey complained on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press," when "we make our best effort and come out and run into a thing like this?"

As the "new partnership" appeared to be dissolving, the battleground shifted to the economy as Republican and Democratic congressional leaders squared off on the economic planks of the House GOP's "Contract with America."

Led by Vice President Al Gore, the Democrats pressed ahead with their attacks on the Republicans' refusal to specify which programs they would cut to pay for their proposed tax cuts while still balancing the federal budget by the year 2002, as mandated by the constitutional amendment they are advocating.

"This group that is talking about an amendment . . . without saying how they will do it is the same group that quadrupled the national debt the last time they had the reins of government," Mr. Gore said on CBS-TV's "Face the Nation."

"They're asking the American people to buy a pig in the poke," said Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, on "Meet the Press." "They're saying: 'Look, we are prepared to balance the budget, but we're not going to tell you how.' "

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas and other GOP leaders responded to the Democratic criticism by saying that it was impossible to be specific about either the types or amounts of the spending cuts that would be necessary to balance the budget in seven years because much would hinge on how the economy performs in the meantime.

But Mr. Armey conceded that another reason for the Republican reticence to be specific was that the will to pass a balanced budget amendment by the required two-thirds majority in the House and Senate would quickly evaporate if all the necessary cuts were spelled out in advance.

"Once members of Congress know exactly, chapter and verse, the pain that the government must live with in order to get to a balanced government, their knees will buckle," he said.

Various estimates have suggested that balancing the budget by 2002 will require anywhere from $750 billion to $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next seven years, and one report said House Republicans were told in a briefing last week that the projected growth of Medicare would have to be cut by nearly $500 billion over that same period. Mr. Dole said on CNN's "Late Edition" that any discussion of specific numbers was premature but that everything would be subject to cuts, with the exception of Social Security.

"You start with 'A,' you start with Amtrak, you start with agriculture. You go all through the alphabet, way down to the Z's," Mr. Dole said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.