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Senators Draw A 'Line In The Sand' On Budget

Conservatives set their conditions for supporting a budget agreement


WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 23) -- Ten conservative Republican senators have served notice they will not go along with any five-year budget agreement that fails to cut taxes and domestic spending enough.

"If you're not going to draw a line in the sand for principles like this, I don't understand why you want public office to begin with," Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, one of the group's leaders, told The Associated Press.

Their five "line in the sand" conditions for supporting a balanced budget agreement are:

  • Less domestic spending.
  • Cuts in capital gains and estate taxes and a $500 per child tax credit.
  • A steady decline in annual deficits over the life of the budget agreement.
  • No changes by Congress in how inflation adjustments are made to federal benefits.
  • No use of White House economic assumptions, which generally are more optimistic than Congressional Budget Office numbers.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, the 10 senators said: "We cannot, in good conscience, support any budget package that violates these five reasonable thresholds."

Just as some Democratic members of Congress fear that President Bill Clinton may sacrifice too much for an agreement, the Republican senators want to keep the pressure on the GOP negotiators not to stray too far, either.

More budget talks are scheduled this week, despite earlier suggestions by Republicans that they would begin to work on their own budget proposal if there was no breakthrough.

Today, Lott told reporters: "The longer we wait the more difficult it will be to get a decision ... In every negotiation and every contract arrangement there comes a time when you have to enter the final agreement and move forward. I think that time is now."

Sources told the AP that Republicans have suggested $120 billion in Medicare savings over five years, $20 billion more than the Clinton Administration wants; tax cuts of $140 billion, $40 billion more than the administration's proposed figure; and $100 billion less spending on domestic programs.


Some of the Republicans' numbers are based on an assumption that the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on its own, will decide that the cost-of-living index overstates inflation by 0.4 percent and lower it on its own.

Lawmakers would like to avoid the political risky step of voting on a change that would mean lower Social Security and other benefits.

Along with Gramm, the other Republican senators who signed the letter were Sam Brownback of Kansas; John Ashcroft of Missouri; Larry Craig of Idaho; Lauch Faircloth of North Carolina; Rod Grams of Minnesota; Jesse Helms of North Carolina; James Inhofe of Oklahoma; Richard Shelby of Alabama; and Bob Smith of New Hampshire.

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