Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Budget Negotiators Strain to Keep on Track Democrats Demand Republicans End Shutdown of Government

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Budget Negotiators Strain to Keep on Track Democrats Demand Republicans End Shutdown of Government

Article excerpt

Budget talks sprang back to life Thursday, but Democrats threatened to cut them off again unless Republicans swiftly send President Bill Clinton legislation ending the six-day government shutdown.

Top White House officials and congressional budget writers huddled in a Capitol meeting room and studied rival schemes for balancing the budget by 2002.

The bargainers tentatively agreed to some cuts in Civil Service benefits, banking, veterans, energy and transportation programs, one source said.

Clinton planned to meet this morning at the White House with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., and other top lawmakers. Vice President Al Gore said, "We're now in the position of trying to delicately put this back together."

But both sides also traded threats over whether to reopen temporarily the nine Cabinet departments and other agencies partly shuttered since last Saturday. The stalemate has resulted in 260,000 federal workers missing work and has prompted a contest by both sides over the political high ground.

"The petulance we saw the last couple of days is unacceptable," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., referring to the GOP's refusal to approve a stopgap bill reopening agencies until a budget deal has been completed. He added that unless Congress sent such legislation to Clinton in the next day or two, "I don't foresee any continued negotiations on the budget, at least in the foreseeable future."

House GOP Stands Firm

But House Republicans stood firm against such a temporary spending bill. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said lawmakers would not send Clinton a bill reopening agencies - even temporarily - until there was "a bill for him to sign" that balances the budget in seven years.

The GOP contends that the shutdown is Clinton's fault because he did not bargain seriously at the intermittent talks over the past month. The two sides are separated by differences over how deeply to cut taxes and how much savings to extract from Medicare, Medicaid and other domestic programs. …

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