Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Hints Gop Balanced-Budget Plan May Work

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Hints Gop Balanced-Budget Plan May Work

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton retreated Thursday from saying he raised taxes too much. But he raised new questions by suggesting that he could accept the Republicans' seven-year plan for a balanced budget.

The twin episodes rattled the White House as Clinton attempted to flex his muscle against the Republican majority in Congress, threatening to veto $270 billion of Republican cuts in Medicare and tax increases on working families. "It's time for Congress to turn back from passing extreme measures that never will become law," Clinton asserted.

Clinton said bankruptcy in 2002 for Medicare, which pays for health care for the elderly, could be avoided by a cut of $124 billion if GOP tax cuts for the wealthy were shelved. He also said the GOP plan would increase "waste, fraud and abuse" in Medicare.

But what the administration hoped would be a rebuke to Republicans turned into a day of White House damage control. Republicans pounced on the latest comment by Clinton, that he was willing to explore ways to achieve the GOP goal of balancing the budget in seven years. "I'm delighted if he said seven years," said House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. "I think that's a big step in the right direction."

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas said, "That's our program." However, in a poke at Clinton, Dole said, "It could have been a mistake, too."

Even before taking questions at his news conference, Clinton confronted what he knew was on everyone's mind: his offhand statement Tuesday night to a group of wealthy political contributors in Houston that many of them were probably still angry at him for raising taxes in his deficit-reduction package of 1993 and that "it might surprise you to know that I think I raised them too much, too."

A political flap had erupted after his remarks. Democrats who risked their necks on the tax vote fumed. Republicans, proposing deep tax cuts this year, snickered and said they would use Clinton's remarks against Democrats who voted for his tax increases.

Trying to excuse his comment Wednesday, Clinton said, "My mother once said I should never give a talk after 7 o'clock at night, especially if I'm tired, and she sure turned out to be right is all I can say. …

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