Divisions persist despite Clinton's budget move

 

THE accord ending the US government shutdown may have put government employees back to work, but it has not ended the political divisions on how to accomplish a balanced budget.

President Clinton and congressional Republicans ended the record setting shutdown late on Saturday when the president agreed to present a compromise resolution that would balance the US budget in seven years, using economic assumptions Republicans have insisted on.

A stop gap spending measure will fund full governmental operations up to January 26th, raising the spectre of a third partial shutdown if a permanent solution is not reached by then.

Asked what we was going to do to appease Republicans who dislike his budget, Mr Clinton said yesterday that he would "keep working on it". However, his plans to hold meetings yesterday were impeded by the snow blizzard that virtually paralysed Washington.

On NBC television, meanwhile, Republican Congressional leader Tom DeLay of Texas said his party was not backing down an inch from its position.

"We promised the American people we would balance the budget and that's what we're going to do," he said.

He sharply criticised President Clinton's treasury secretary, Mr Robert Rubin, for taking money from retirement funds to pay for some of the stalled government operations.

"If the head of a private company had done that, he would be in jail today," Mr DeLay said. Mr Rubin said he acted perfectly legally.

Though bills passed by Congress and signed on Saturday by Mr Clinton were intended to bring all federal employees back to their offices with pay, many faced the prospect of doing nothing since Republicans denied operational funding for certain agencies.

But another bill passed by Congress called for full funding of all affected departments and agencies if President Clinton would agree to present his own balanced budget plan. The president did so on Saturday night.

"I am pleased that Congress has completed the task of reopening the federal government," said Mr Clinton, as he signed a resolution ending the partial shutdown.

What is now splitting the two parties is how the US deficit will be eliminated. Both sides agree that Mr Clinton's plan will wipe out deficit spending by the year 2002, but the Republican plan would slice more deeply into social welfare spending while offering a larger tax cut than Mr Clinton's.

The president's plan would give some $87 billion in tax cuts. That is much lower than the Republicans' proposed $245 billion cut, but Democratic leaders had originally advocated no tax cuts at all.