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Clinton, GOP Push Balanced Budget Priorities -- Jan. 21, 1997

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Clinton Pushes For Bipartisan Balanced Budget

By Wolf Blitzer/CNN


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 23) -- President Bill Clinton is continuing to talk compromise with the Republicans in Congress and says there's a better than 50 percent chance there will be a balanced budget agreement this year.

Going beyond his earlier effort this week to split the difference with the GOP over Medicare savings, Clinton is now promising to be flexible on several other issues. In a television interview with The Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt Wednesday night, he included Social Security reforms and capital gains and other tax cuts.

"I've always made it clear that I'm flexible on capital gains," Clinton told Hunt. "I've never been philosophically opposed as some of my fellow Democrats are. But I think a lot of us are open to that."

He also says he wants a bipartisan commission to study proposals to increase premiums for wealthy Medicare recipients and to raise the retirement age. And he wants that work to be finished by the middle of next year.

Clinton and Lott

Clinton said, "I think that we ought to look at that in terms of a long-term fix for Medicare. But if we do, people are entitled to know that it's not the tweedledee tweedledum, that is, it's not a tax cut here and a premium rise there."

And the president was effusive in his praise for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, saying he thinks they understand each other. He says he likes working with Lott, in part because of their common southern roots.

All this makes the White House upbeat.

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry commented, "Normally everyone declares the budget dead on arrival and we go into an extensive pattern of negotiations. We don't know yet what's going to happen but so far, based on the comments coming from the Republican leaders on [Capitol] Hill, they're taking what we're saying seriously. And the president's very encouraged by that."

Based on what they've heard so far, Republicans are also saying some positive things about the president's latest budget proposals.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, "I am glad now that the election is over to see that the president has agreed that we need to save Medicare." Gingrich said Clinton is making some proposals that are "remarkable coming from this administration, given how they characterized them last year."

It seems to adding up to a less politically charged atmosphere in Washington.

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