Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Some Progress Apparent in Latest Talks on Budget

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Some Progress Apparent in Latest Talks on Budget

Article excerpt

President Bill Clinton and Republican congressional leaders began an extraordinary effort Tuesday to nail down a seven-year balanced-budget accord before New Year's Day.

After a two-hour Oval Office meeting, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said a follow-up session was set for today. If the talks continue to make progress, he said, "we'll talk about" legislation to reopen the government, now mired in its second partial shutdown in the last month.

"We want to get it done by the end of the year. We want a balanced budget over seven years," Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., said in a news conference.

Vice President Al Gore affirmed the administration's commitment to the talks, although he stopped short of saying there was a New Year's deadline. "If it is possible to conclude it" by then, the White House would like to, he said.

The two sides are separated on such key issues as tax cuts, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, the environment and virtually the entire range of government programs.

Dole said major decisions lie ahead. "The president, the speaker and the majority leader are going to have to make some of these tough decisions," he said. "And we'll try to keep in touch as we go through this."

Gingrich indicated his satisfaction with Clinton's response to a specific GOP demand by agreeing that the talks would be "operating within a framework" of an economic forecast by the Congressional Budget Office.

Mike McCurry, the White House press secretary, said Clinton's plan remains on the table. "They will be looking at it through the prism of the CBO analysis," he said. An earlier version was found by the agency to have a deficit of $115 billion in 2002.

"There were no concessions by them, no concessions by us," Gore said.

The agency's economic forecast is less optimistic than the one used by the administration, meaning that it takes more spending cuts to balance the budget.

White House chief of staff Leon Panetta met later with Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Budget committees, Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Rep. John Kasich of Ohio, in preparation for today's session.

Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, D-S. …

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