GOP budget plan in Senate falls short, president says It cuts Clinton initiatives on education, child care and job training


LAS VEGAS -- President Clinton yesterday firmly rejected the Republican budget proposal, declaring that it "shortchanges our nation's future" by eliminating nearly all of his new domestic initiatives on education, job training and child care.

Employing sharply partisan language and speaking to a cheering, sympathetic crowd of union members of the AFL-CIO, Clinton set out on a collision course with the

Republican-controlled Congress over how the nation should spend its first projected surplus in 30 years.

"If the Republican budget says no to new teachers and smaller classes, no to modernizing our schools, no to investing in higher education for our children, the American people should say no to that budget," Clinton declared to whoops and cheers from a largely blue-collar audience here.

He added: "I need your help. This ought not to be a partisan political issue."

Hours later, the Senate Budget Committee approved the Republican tax and spending plan on a party-line 12-10 vote, after turning aside a series of attempts by Democrats to restore Clinton's initiatives.

If the Republican plan is approved on the Senate floor, it will serve as the blueprint for the specific bills authorizing spending programs and tax cuts.

With the entire House and a third of the Senate up for re-election this year, and Democrats harboring hopes of regaining control of the House, both parties appear eager to turn their tax and spending plans into campaign issues.

Democrats believe their spending plans will be popular with middle-class families, while Republicans are happy to run as guardians of the nation's newfound fiscal health.

In attacking the Republicans' proposal one day after it was introduced in the Senate, the president moved quickly to exploit what White House advisers in Washington described as a political misstep by Republicans.

"If the Republicans want to have a fight about education, we stand ready to defend our schools, our parents and our children," said Rahm Emanuel, one of the president's senior advisers.

It was clear last night that this was a welcome fight, with the White House searching for distractions from the independent counsel's investigation into Clinton's relationship with a former White House intern. Emanuel suggested, with evident enthusiasm, that the budget dispute might well last the year.

The president's remarks were made during the course of a relatively quick trip out of Washington, to attend a meeting of the AFL-CIO executive council. He seemed buoyed by the tumultuous reception he received from the moment he walked into the Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Training Center at the outskirts of this gambling city.

For most of his 28 minutes on stage, the president gave an enthusiastic accounting of the state of the nation, taking credit for improvements in employment, inflation, crime and the economy. He then noted that the central budget dispute is how to spend a surplus that is now being projected, and, taking note of his audience, used a building analogy to make his argument.

"You don't have to be a carpenter to know that you don't fix the roof when it's raining," he said.

Pub Date: 3/19/98

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