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Gephardt threatens to block action unless Medicare agreement reached

By Ted Barrett/CNN

February 25, 1999
Web posted at: 4:44 p.m. EST (2144 GMT)

WASHINGTON (February 25) -- House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt warned Thursday that House Democrats will attempt to put all policy proposals on "hold" if Republicans do not agree with President Bill Clinton's proposal to set aside 77 percent of the federal budget surplus to help rescue the financially faltering Social Security and Medicare programs.

"The threshold issue is how much of the surplus are you ready to save for Social Security and Medicare," Gephardt said at a briefing with reporters. "If we can't make that decision then it's very doubtful that we can move forward and I think issues will get put on hold, which is not a good idea.

Gephardt
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt  

"I hope the Republicans can come to an agreement with us on this amount, because it has enormous ramifications for these programs over the next 30-40 years," Gephardt said.

Congressional Democrats are united behind the president's plan to set aside 62 percent of the expected budget surplus for Social Security and 15 percent for Medicare in an effort to stave off bankruptcy for the two insurance programs for older Americans.

Republicans say they are committed to reserving part of the surplus for Social Security but have not made a similar pledge for Medicare. Republicans want to use some of the surplus money for a tax cut.

"The president is setting up a false dichotomy here. He says it's either spend the money on Social Security or cut taxes without ever mentioning all his plans to spend the money on all kinds of new program initiatives," House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas).

Gephardt's threat came at the same time he said he is encouraging Democrats to attend an upcoming bipartisan retreat in Pennsylvania to help mend the wounds inflicted by the impeachment battle. He predicted at least half the caucus would attend but said he understood why many would not.

"People feel the GOP in the last four years ran the place, in terms of substance and process in a very partisan way. One of our members came to me recently and said, 'Why do you expect me to sit down and make nice with people who refused to give us an alternative in the impeachment?'" Gephardt explained.

"We've been through the politics of destruction. There are a lot of pent-up feelings on both sides," he said.


RELATED STORIES

Budget office: Focus on economy to save Social Security (2-22-99)

Clinton, congressional leaders sit down for 'positive' meeting (2-22-99)

Congress returns to post-impeachment Washington (2-22-99)


THE 2000 BUDGET

Clinton warns against across-the-board tax cut (2-17-99)

Clinton asks for bipartisan support of Social Security, Medicare plan (2-3-99)

Clinton rolls out $1.77 trillion budget (2-1-99)

Summary: How Clinton's budget would be spent (2-1-99)

GOP likely to offer stiff resistance to Clinton budget (2-1-99)


State of the Union
STATE OF THE UNION

Clinton ignores impeachment, calls for Social Security reform(1-19-99)

In response, GOP promises to stick to 'practical matters' (1-19-99)


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MESSAGE BOARD

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MORE STORIES:

Thursday, February 25, 1999

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