Clinton to leave for Bosnia with budget impasse still unresolved

 

FOLLOWING the breakdown of budget negotiations between Congress and the White House on Tuesday evening, President Clinton vetoed a bill to remove the federal guarantee of welfare for all eligible Americans.

Mr Clinton is expected to leave Washington today on the first stage of a weekend trip to US forces in Bosnia, with stops in Hungary, Croatia and Italy. The two sides will not meet again for new budget talks until next week.

The breakdown of talks, after 50 hours of negotiations between Mr Clinton and Republican leaders, may deprive the Republicans of their main legislative goal - a balanced federal budget in seven years.

If a compromise is not reached by January 26th, spending authority for government programmes may again be suspended and the government forced into another partial closure.

A three week shutdown of some services ended last weekend, although the government remained closed yesterday for the third day in succession because of snow bound streets in Washington after the Sunday blizzard. The city faces another snowstorm tomorrow.

However, with neither side prepared to yield on basic principles, the goal of a balanced budget may become a central issue in this year's presidential election.

In that event Republicans would try to push through a series of spending bills to keep most government departments working and leave it up to the electorate to decide in November. House Speaker Newt Gingrich hinted at this strategy when he said shutdowns would not be a feature of future budget crises.

Mr Clinton said much progress had been made in the budget talks, but he claimed Republicans wanted cuts that went "well beyond what is necessary" to wipe out deficit spending within seven years.

Conservative Democrats in Congress said they were making progress toward a separate deal with Republican leaders which the President might be able to accept.

The welfare bill vetoed by Mr Clinton was a centrepiece of the Republican "Contract with America". The President said it was "burdened with deep budget cuts" and "does to little to move people from welfare to work".

He also alleged it made "massive structural changes in a variety of programmes including foster care and adoption assistance".

Democrats are deeply divided over welfare reform and liberals fear that Mr Clinton would eventually agree to eliminating the central welfare programme.