Dems Set Budget Principles

Expressing optimism that Republicans, Democrats and President Clinton can reach agreement on a balanced budget, House and Senate Democratic leaders today laid out six principles they believe any budget plan must address.

"Democrats and Republicans have to resist the temptation to use the budget negotiations to score short-term political points or settle old political scores," Senate Minority Leader Daschle told the Economic Policy Institute. Addressing the same group, House Minority Leader Gephardt said, "We must balance the budget without bankrupting hope and opportunity for a middle-class that should be expanding, not shrinking."

Daschle then laid out the six principles. First, he said, Congress should meet the April 15 deadline for producing a budget plan. He said Congress should use economic assumptions developed by the CBO, a plan Republicans also have advocated. Daschle said any budget savings that come from Medicare must be "plowed back" into the program. "Medicare is a trust fund, not a slush fund," Daschle said in praising the Medicare plan Clinton released this week. Daschle said any tax changes in the budget plan should be tailored toward working families. He said changes in the consumer price index should be "based on rational, not political calculations." Finally, he said, the plan should include and pay for investments in education, children's health care, pension protection and violent crime reduction.

Daschle said Democrats had made a promise to protect Medicare "and as far as I'm concerned, that was not a promise to be made to be broken after the election."

Gephardt, during his presentation, renewed the Democratic call for a "Families First" agenda, saying, "We believe that government should work for the great hard-working majority of Americans and for the millions still left behind, not against them." Gephardt said Democrats and "chastened" Republicans now are both emphasizing policies that would boost family income. He called on the Republicans to embrace the "Families First" agenda.

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