Republican Leaders Question Clinton's Budget

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Feb. 6) -- Congressional Republicans are reacting cautiously to President Bill Clinton's 1998 budget proposal, though some say that it's not the bold step they were looking for and contains too much spending with too few tax cuts.

In a news conference today, House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich (R-Ohio), said the Clinton plan was misleading and does not balance the budget by 2002.

"We just really do not have the kind of bold document that we would like to see that would be a message to people that there really is change in Washington, that the era of big government is over," Kasich said.


The GOP wants to double the $98 billion in tax cuts proposed by the White House, make greater changes in Medicare and craft a plan for faster reductions in spending. "We [Republicans] will have to pull this agenda closer to what we believe is the vision the American people want," Kashich told reporters. "It is the vision that, I believe, will empower people and families and communities to have a much stronger America."

Kasich's Senate counterpart, Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), was similarly unimpressed by Clinton's budget.

"I am very discouraged when you add six new entitlement programs and at the same time, you are trying to say we are getting a budget under control," Domenici told reporters, though it wasn't immediately clear which programs he was referring to.

Domenici said proposing more spending at a time when lawmakers are trying to reign it in didn't add up. "Who is going to oppose adding $14 billion in new entitlements in Medicare when it's for Alzheimers victims? But we just began to convince the American people and seniors that it was going broke and the president seeks to add to it."

Still, Domenici insisted he was not "dumping on" Clinton's budget and that it would serve as a "good starting point."


Adding his take, House Republican Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) said, "The administration has embarked on a journey to Shangri-La, a mythical place where spending goes up ... and where budgets magically balance with a wave of the hand."

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry said the lukewarm reception was no surprise.

"We certainly expect criticism," McCurry said. "We certainly expect alternative ideas. The most encouraging thing to the president is that this budget is being received seriously ... It is not being cast aside as a document dead on arrival."

Maybe so, but the newly-pledged commitment in Washington to bipartisanship and cooperation doesn't mean the process will be an easy one. Tension has already been escalating over the GOP's proposed balanced budget amendment, which the president opposes.

"Some of the differences we have are truly principle differences, and we will have to work hard to have an honorable compromise, but I believe that we can do it," Clinton told reporters.

Though there has been speculation Republicans would not submit their own budget proposal this year, today Kasich hinted that the House GOP might. "I believe it will be neccesary and proper and right for the Republicans, at least in the House, to move forward with a proposal that we stand behind that we think will make more sense than the president's," Kasich told CNN earlier Thursday.

Reactions from other Republicans echoed Kasich and Domenici.

Dubbing the budget proposal a "starting point," Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said that Republicans can work with the president on the problem areas. "It is basically a budget which is based on optimistic economic assumptions, has in it new entitlement proposals for spending and has a very low net tax cut, none of which really accomplishes the basic goals of a balanced budget," Gregg said.

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