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Lott 'Depressed' Over Clinton Budget's Shortcomings

WASHINGTON (Feb. 7) -- After taking a day to review the Clinton Administration's new budget, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott dismissed the spending plan as a recycled version of the proposal that led to gridlock and government shutdowns the last time around.


"I must tell you, I'm greatly depressed by what I've seen," Lott said. "I had hoped for more leadership and a greater degree of courage in making recommendations to the Congress. I have called the president and expressed that concern to him."

In the exquisite ways of Washington, Lott called the president ahead of time to warn him he would be critical and allow him to craft a response.

Clinton said he wasn't bothered by Lott's public comments. "I took no offense about what he said today," the president said. "I am very encouraged by the remarks that have been made by the House leaders and the Senate leaders in the budget process.

"I think he [Lott] thinks that maybe there's a bigger difference between us and maybe we'll have to work harder. But we always knew we were going to have to work hard to reconcile our differences... " daschle

Said Clinton, "If you look at the differences between us and you look at how close we are to a balanced budget, we can do it and I'm convinced we will do it."

Those "remarks" that Clinton referred to include complaints that the president's budget relies on overly optimistic economic assumptions, falls short on tax reduction, engages in flim-flam savings and saves most of the painful cutbacks until after Clinton leaves office.

But some feel that's mild compared to the open hostility that had become the norm.

"I talked to the president at some length [Thursday] night and he too shares the view that we're off to a much better start than we have been in recent years," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.)


And in a hearing today on the Hill, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici offered some cover to White House Budget Director Franklin Raines.

"We thought maybe to get to ribbon-cutting time, you better put on a hard hat, because you've got to do a little hard work," Domenici said.

That work could take a huge step forward when the president re-visits the Hill to start the budget dealing on Tuesday.

Said Lott: "The idea there will be to just sit down and roll up our sleeves, forget what's been said, forget the campaign, and see if we can begin to actually get down to work."


In another development, Lott accused Democrats of trying to ambush the GOP-led investigation into Democratic fund-raising activities during the 1996 campaign.

He accused Democrats of pushing for an expanded probe, then refusing to support the $6.5 million in funds sought by Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) to finance it. Thompson chairs the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

Lott said if Democrats try to stall the probe, Republicans will tell their version of the fund-raising story and "let the American people be the judge."

CNN's Bob Franken and Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report.

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