Clinton Orders Offices Staffed for Social Security Another Veto Threat in Budget Rift

Article excerpt

Refusing to bend in a test of wills, President Bill Clinton threatened anew Thursday to veto the latest Republican offer to end a three-day partial government shutdown. Clinton said he was ordering the recall of furloughed workers to process claims for Social Security and veterans benefits.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., rebutted: "He doesn't want a balanced budget. . . . That's the issue."

With the two sides seemingly at gridlock, Democrats gibed House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., for claiming that Clinton had snubbed him recently aboard Air Force One and that Gingrich had toughened his stance on the budget as a result.

Several lawmakers trooped to the House floor with oversized copies of the front page of Thursday's New York Daily News. It bore a huge headline of "Cry Baby" and a cartoon depicting Gingrich in a diaper, holding a baby bottle and throwing a tantrum.

At three days, the partial shutdown was the longest ever arising from one of the nation's periodic budget wars. Barring an unexpected concession, it seemed likely to stretch into next week.

Republicans are hoping to pass a separate measure containing their balanced budget plan by the weekend. Clinton has threatened to reject it, as well, and Republicans and Democrats alike said they doubted whether serious compromise talks would begin until that veto had been cast.

The Republican leaders repeatedly expressed a willingness to reopen talks with Clinton on ending the impasse, which has forced huge sections of the government to remain closed since Tuesday and disrupted normal treasury borrowing.

At the same time, the GOP-controlled Senate ignored Clinton's veto threat. It labored to pass a bill that would reopen the entire government through Dec. 5 on the condition that Clinton agree to work out a seven-year balanced budget, based on Congressional Budget Office economic assumptions. The White House prefers projections by its Office of Management and Budget.

The House approved the measure early Thursday, 277-151, with 48 Democrats in favor, just 12 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed for a veto override.

With the GOP insisting on a seven-year time frame, both sides were dskirting the key issue of economic assumptions - estimates of growth, joblessness and inflation that have a major impact on government spending and revenue estimates.

Clinton said that signing the GOP legislation would be tantamount to accepting GOP plans for "crippling cuts in Medicare" and unacceptable reductions in Medicaid, education and environmental protection.

"Congress should act responsibly and pass straightforward legislation to open the government and enable it to meet its financial obligations," he said. "It should do it right now.

"The American people should not be held hostage any more to the Republican budget priorities," said Clinton, repeating a veto threat he first made Wednesday night. …