Stop Stalling

Office of Management and Budget Director Franklin Raines yesterday sharply criticized a GOP-sponsored resolution passed by the House yesterday as a dilatory tactic designed to stall the budget process and obscure the details of President Clinton's balanced budget plan.

Republicans pushed through a resolution asking the president to send a new budget to Congress that reaches balance in 2002, using Congressional Budget Office economic estimates. The GOP used the resolution as an opportunity to continue to blast the administration budget. "The president has sent us a budget and it is not in balance," House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, declared.

Raines characterized the resolution as "totally unhelpful." Raines charged: "It's a diversion from the real work. It's a weak effort to disguise the fact that the president has the only detailed budget."

Raines repeated administration arguments that Clinton's budget achieves balance using more optimistic economic assumptions than the CBO.

Speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Raines said the administration is ready to begin serious budget negotiations -- but contended the White House is dealing with a House GOP Conference that appears fractured and uncommitted to balancing the budget.

"The Republican Conference has not decided when the balanced budget fits in their legislative agenda. There's an internal debate on that question," he said, adding, "There's no evidence they have made this a legislative priority."

However, Raines said he is "cautiously optimistic" negotiations will begin sooner rather than later, which would increase the prospect of getting a deal by the August recess.

Whether or not a budget deal is struck by the August recess, he said, "depends on when the engagement begins." Declared Raines: "We think the time for stalling is over. The time is now for Congress to begin working on a real budget. We will keep pushing for that."

While Republicans are not likely to make the April 15 deadline for a final budget resolution, Republicans on the House Budget Committee may meet Thursday to try to put the finishing touches on their recommendations for a budget resolution.

"Most all of us on the Budget Committee have decided we want to move ahead," Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., told CongressDaily. House Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas, said Tuesday he expects both houses to consider a budget resolution during the first two weeks in May.

Meanwhile, although he pledged to continue working with Clinton in good faith to achieve a balanced budget, House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, today said he believes Clinton's fiscal 1998 budget "is just barely breathing" and repeated his request that the president modify his proposal.

"It has a $69 billion deficit, it raises taxes and it increases welfare spending," Archer said of the president's budget in opening a Ways and Means hearing on the administration's proposed revenue raisers.

Ways and Means ranking member Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., questioned how revenue lost due to any tax cuts will be made up.

"I personally don't see how in good conscience we can talk about a tax cut when the entire country really enjoys a tax cut when we reduce our deficit," Rangel said. "If we don't like what the president has sent to us -- and I'm not in love with it either -- what we ought to do is come up with another plan."

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