Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Don't Be Fooled on Real Cause of Budget Fight

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Don't Be Fooled on Real Cause of Budget Fight

Article excerpt

ANYONE WHO'S watched difficult labor negotiations knows how petty personal spats can influence the talks. And while the stakes in the current federal budget dispute are much higher, at heart the back-and-forth we've seen this week isn't all that different from your basic Teamsters contract dispute.

Democrats were gleeful and Republicans nervous after House Speaker Newt Gingrich complained that President Bill Clinton had insulted him by making him get off the rear of Air Force One upon their return from Israel last week.

Gingrich said that was one reason he and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole insisted on such a tough bargaining position with Clinton in order to keep the government operating.

"We no longer mattered," Gingrich pouted to reporters at a breakfast Wednesday, conceding that his response to the president's actions was "petty . . . but it's human." He started backing away from his remarks right away, but to no avail. Democrats ridiculed him, while Republicans urged that he get some sleep. And the GOP's balanced-budget message was obscured, at least for a while, by the vision of a government shut down by bruised egos.

Actually, the whole thing is about more than ego, though it's less than the monumental philosophic struggle that both Gingrich and Clinton are making it out to be.

What it is, is a tough negotiation about money.

When Clinton didn't want to bargain on the plane and made the opposition leave by the rear, Gingrich and Dole took it as a sign.

"It was clear to us coming off that airplane . . . they wanted a fight . . . a clear signal they wanted to go hard confrontation," Gingrich said. If that was the case, the Republicans figured they might as well take a tough stance from the beginning.

Sen. Christopher S. Bond, R-Mo., took a similar tack in trying to fashion a spending bill for veterans, housing and independent agencies. Bond tried in vain to get the administration to bargain over spending ahead of time in order to get a bill that Clinton could sign, but the administration wasn't interested in talking, saying the president would veto the bill anyway.

Fine, said Bond, who promptly zeroed out AmeriCorps, one of Clinton's favorite programs. …

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