Budget talks fall through

Republicans blame White House

plan graphics November 11, 1995
Web posted at: 4:00 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the deadline for ending the budget stand-off drew closer, Congressional leaders and the White House moved further away from compromise. With the threat of a government shutdown on Tuesday, negotiators cancelled a planned meeting Saturday to hammer out a compromise.

White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry told reporters Saturday the White House and congressional leaders were unable to agree who would attend the meeting. Congressional leaders were quick to place the blame on the White House. "We've not only gone the extra mile, we've gone the next mile. We tried everything we could to get the president to sit down with us and talk about the immediate problem, plus the overall problem of the balanced budget, but he doesn't seem interested," said Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole at a press conference called after the meeting was cancelled.

With the prospects for a compromise diminishing, the White House is putting into effect its plan for shutting down the government and preparing for a possible default. President Clinton has called off a trip to Boston so he can be on hand. This amidst charges by congressional Republicans that the president is abandoning the budget process.

White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta was to meet with aides to House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Dole to try to crack a budget impasse that threatens to shut down all but essential government services on Monday.

The meeting was to lay ground work for talks between Gingrich, Dole and President Clinton, who has threatened to veto the bills that would prevent the government shutdown. Gingrich said there was still time for compromise before a government shutdown becomes necessary at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Clinton and congressional Republicans have reached an 11th hour standoff over measures attached to the bills that the president considers unacceptable. The Senate and House passed a bill extending the nation's debt ceiling on Thursday, but it includes prohibitions against borrowing from government funds to avoid default, as well as restrictions on death row appeals, regulatory limits and a requirement that the president agree to negotiate a seven-year balanced budget plan.

And the continuing resolution -- the measure that would stop the shutdown -- contains attachments that would raise Medicare premiums and allow much lower levels of federal spending than currently authorized.

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"Republicans in Congress have a responsibility to keep the government running without cutting Medicare and increasing premiums, without cutting education and under-cutting the environment." Clinton said.

Clinton said the bill to extend the country's debt limit makes a default "almost inevitable" by restricting measures the treasury may take to avoid reneging on its debts in the future.

Framing the budget debate as a choice between unity on the Democratic side and "a winner-take-all" approach by Republicans, Clinton said the spending crisis is preventing an open debate on the budget. (214K AIFF sound or 214K WAV sound)

The American people cannot debate the budget "under the threat of a government default or shutdown," he said.

The president indicated he would be willing to accept bills which do not include the controversial provisions and challenged Congress to come up with compromise legislation over the weekend.

Leon Panetta Earlier Friday, in an interview with CNN, Panetta said the White House is prepared to let the government run out of money. "The president frankly can't give in on this. This is not a situation where the president can say, 'Oh well, this time I'll give in,' because the problem is, what happens the next time?" (184K AIFF sound or 184K WAV sound)

The government has already made plans for shutting down. President Clinton met with his cabinet late Thursday to finalize the plans which, among other things, will:

As the possibility of a shutdown loomed, Republicans and Democrats scrambled to pin the blame on their adversaries.

Newt Gingrich

Rep. Charles Schumer, D-New York, said, "Newt Gingrich is playing a game of chicken with the American people on the cutting board. If you listen to the debate over the debt ceiling, you'd think it has no real consequences. Unfortunately you're likely to be dead wrong. The budget game that Newt Gingrich is playing will hurt seniors, students and homeowners. It will hurt the average American." (104K AIFF sound or 104K WAV sound)

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