President, Congress Slow to Settle Budget National Gallery Reopens Art Exhibition; Smithsonian Funds Its History Museum

Article excerpt

The White House described the nation's worst budget crisis Wednesday as "an urgent situation," but neither the administration nor congressional Republicans rushed to resolve the stalemate.

In a slow-motion return from a holiday recess, staff members from Congress and the Office of Management and Budget discussed a schedule for negotiations, expected to include a session Friday between President Bill Clinton and congressional leaders.

A divide over Medicare cutbacks and other issues still separates the president and congressional Republicans. But while negotiations resume, 760,000 federal employees in unfunded agencies will be receiving only partial paychecks; 280,000 of that number remain on furlough; and many national parks and museums are closed.

White House press secretary Mike McCurry said, "It is an urgent situation, but the differences that exist between the two sides are very deep, very fundamental. People who have not followed this . . . think it's all theatrics, but it's not."

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., agreed.

"There's a myth out there that this is all about politics," Dole said, adding that "by Saturday, we'll have a framework - or we'll know we can't put it together."

While the president met briefly with budget director Alice Rivlin, Clinton's chief of staff Leon Panetta was not due back from vacation until today.

Neither house of Congress scheduled any business Wednesday. Rep. Constance A. Morella, R-Md., who represents thousands of federal employees, prepared legislation that would declare all federal workers essential and send them back to work.

A similar measure was approved by the Senate last week.

Tony Blankley, spokesman for Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said the GOP leadership has not scheduled the measure for floor action. …