Blue Dogs to Push Budget

As Congress returns next week, The Coalition of moderate-to- conservative Democrats -- informally known as the Blue Dogs -- will begin a major push for their budget plan in an attempt to convince congressional leaders to begin the process of writing an FY98 budget resolution, an aide to a key member of The Coalition said yesterday.

The Blue Dogs intend to meet with House Democrats who supported the group's fiscal 1997 plan but have yet to sign on to the group's 1998 plan, the aide said. In addition, the Blue Dogs will seek support from GOP moderates who may agree with large parts of The Coalition's spending blueprint.

The group also plans to discuss the issue with the bipartisan Senate group led by Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Chafee and Sen. John Breaux, D-La. The aide said the talks would either prod the Republican leadership to begin work on a budget resolution or fill a vacuum in the absence of a GOP plan, but that "either way, it helps move the process forward." Congressional budget writers and the Clinton administration are expected to begin serious budget talks next week.

The aide conceded The Coalition's plan to trim indexation for all federal programs using the Consumer Price Index by 0.8 percent causes some problems among House members. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., recently said many GOP moderates oppose the CPI proposal.

"It's as much a political concern as it is a substantive concern," the aide to The Coalition member said. He said the group was encouraged by GOP leaders' recent suggestions they may delay tax cut legislation until spending cuts are locked in.

The Blue Dogs have urged that no tax cut legislation be considered until Congress is assured the budget will reach balance. The group also intends to expand its plan to require an enforcement mechanism in any budget plan. The group's budget requires that specific deficit targets be met each year. If those targets are not met, Congress and the president would have to make cuts to reach the targets or vote to increase the deficit figure.

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