Partisan congressional vote passes budget-balance bill Veto by president already assured

November 18, 1995|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Knight-Ridder News ServiceSUN NATIONAL STAFF Sun staff writers Carl M. Cannon and John W. Frece contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON — An article in yesterday's editions incorrectly indicated that the House and Senate had approved identical versions of the Republicans' bill to balance the budget. In fact, the Senate made minor changes to the House version before passing it. As a result, the House must now approve the Senate's version for the bill to be passed by Congress.

The Sun regrets the errors.

WASHINGTON -- With the government still partially shut down, Congress approved yesterday the core of the Republicans' revolutionary drive to balance the budget, shrink government, cut taxes and scale back social programs. President Clinton has vowed to veto the bill.

The House voted 237-189 along party lines to approve a final version of the measure, representing nearly a year's worth of work.


The Senate followed with a vote of 52-47 approving the measure last night.

"I never thought we'd see this day," said Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, chairman of the Budget Committee. "It is indeed a glorious day for America's future. I only wish I could look out there and we could say we've come to the end of the tunnel."

Meanwhile, the White House and Republican congressional leaders last night negotiated on a compromise to end the impasse over a short-term spending bill that has kept the government partially closed and caused nearly 800,000 federal employees to be furloughed.

They failed to reach an agreement, though talks are expected to continue today. The White House offered to commit to the GOP goal of balancing the budget over seven years, but wouldn't accept a Republican demand that the budget be based on economic projections by Congress that Mr. Clinton says could force spending to be cut too sharply.

Earlier in the day, exultant Republicans cheered the House vote to approve the sweeping measure to balance the budget, called a reconciliation bill.

"This is truly a historic accomplishment," Speaker Newt Gingrich said, calling it the "most important vote since 1933," when the New Deal began with Democratic-backed social programs.

Even so, the measure faces a certain veto from President Clinton, who has said it includes "the biggest Medicare and Medicaid cuts in history, unprecedented cuts in education and the environment, and steep tax increases on working families."

A veto by the president would likely be followed by further negotiation until a mutually acceptable version is found.

The Republican moment of celebration over the historic achievement was overshadowed by the political struggle with the White House. The stalemate has resulted in a partial %J shutdown of the federal government that is already the longest ever and threatens to extend into next week.

In a sign of the cost and inconvenience being faced throughout the nation, Gov. Fife Symington of Arizona brought a force of National Guard troops to the Grand Canyon in a failed attempt to reopen the area, which has been closed to tourists for the first time.

On Thursday, Congress passed a second stopgap spending bill to replace one that Mr. Clinton had vetoed Monday. But Republican leaders decided not to send the measure to the president yesterday because he has already threatened to veto that one, too.

Pressure built yesterday in the rank and file of both parties to find a way out of the crisis that would allow the government to open temporarily while political leaders negotiate a budget deal.

A bipartisan group of moderates circulated a proposed compromise, saying they felt duty-bound to act because Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gingrich seemed unable to come to terms on their own.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who had to postpone and possibly cancel a trip to Florida for a critical GOP presidential straw poll today because of the impasse, said he had heard of six or seven ideas for a compromise floating about and expressed hope that something might come of it.

Even if the government shutdown drags on, Gov. Parris N. Glendening of Maryland said the state would continue to pay the salaries of about 10,000 state employees whose pay otherwise would be fully funded by the federal government.

When the shutdown began, Mr. Glendening said the state would cover the $1.4 million daily cost of those salaries at least for a week and then reassess the situation.

Yesterday, the Democratic governor said the state would continue to pay those salaries "at least for the next couple weeks, although we certainly hope it does not go on that long."

The standoff that resulted in the partial shutdown of government and the sweeping balanced budget legislation that Congress plans to send to Mr. Clinton today are inextricably linked.

Mr. Clinton opposes the Republican budget plan because it squeezes nearly $1 trillion from benefit programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, student loans, farm subsidies, and tax breaks for the working poor. The GOP proposal would also grant $245 billion in tax cuts to families and businesses.

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