Budget Bickering Continues

Once again attempting to shine the spotlight on the Clinton administration's fiscal 1998 budget, House Republicans may take a resolution to the floor next week demanding that the President send a new budget to Capitol Hill, House Budget Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, said today.

"We do not have a balanced budget up here," Kasich told reporters, in explaining the motivation behind the effort.

Congressional Republicans have been attempting to emphasize this week's CBO report, which showed the Clinton budget would result in a $69 billion deficit in 2002 using CBO economic assumptions and they have demanded a new budget. Administration officials have said they have no intention of sending a new budget to Congress and, instead, want to see the GOP alternative. Kasich said it remains unclear when that GOP alternative will be developed.

In separate appearances, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., also criticized Clinton's budget and warned time is running out.

"The one they sent up must have been a draft," Gingrich told the Conservative Political Action Conference. "If he will send up a balanced budget, we will work with him."

Lott told reporters, "If we don't begin to make some progress here in the next couple of weeks, I have my doubts, frankly, that we will be able to come to a budget agreement." Lott said he tried to refrain from partisan potshots at Clinton's budget, "but the more I've looked at it, the less there is to it. There's just no 'there' there."

Asked if Congress will meet its April 15 for finishing a budget resolution, Kasich said, "Maybe, probably," later adding that, "I've never been a stickler for deadlines."

Kasich said the entire issue would be resolved if the administration and Congress can reach a budget agreement. "If not, then we obviously move on our own," he said. And he sought to downplay informal discussions that are taking place with the administration over budget issues. "I've had some nice conversations, but I've had nice conversations with all kinds of people," he said.

Kasich said it is unclear what role the consumer price index controversy will play in the budget process, adding that if a commission is appointed to study the CPI, President Clinton must make it clear that he is firmly committed to it.

"This has to be another member of his family," Kasich said. "The President must adopt, love and cherish this idea."

In a related development, 13 Republican senators have sent Lott a letter stating they are "strongly opposed" to tax increases in the president's budget. "America's long-term interests require us to balance the budget by cutting spending, not by increasing taxes," the letter said, citing a recent Joint Committee on Taxation report saying the Clinton budget would result in a net tax increase of $23 billion over ten years.

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