President Plots Budget Strategy

President Clinton is spending the first day of his second term with a heavy focus on balancing the budget, meeting this afternoon with his economic team to shake out a strategy.

Clinton was scheduled to gather with his economic advisers this afternoon to give them the "marching orders" on how to reach a balanced budget agreement with the 105th Congress, White House Press Secretary Michael McCurry told reporters this morning. A big part of the president's budget strategy, McCurry said, will center on the actual presentation of the plan to Congress, which historically has all but ignored White House budget proposals.

"He's proposed a credible, sensible, common-ground budget that can reach bipartisan agreement quickly if Congress so inclines," McCurry said of Clinton. "We want this budget to be treated seriously when it arrives on the Hill."

McCurry noted a pattern of presidential budgets "being declared dead-on-arrival" when they reach Capitol Hill and said the Clinton administration wants to change that. "We hope and we think that we will change history with [Clinton's] budget," McCurry said.

White House officials have said publicly over the past week the president's strategy will involve a spirited fight against congressional attempts to pass a balanced budget constitutional amendment. McCurry, however, sought to downplay the notion that such a fight will be central to the White House budget strategy, but acknowledged Clinton is more interested in getting the budget balanced by 2002 rather than worrying about which "mechanism" should be used.

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