Although Republicans had been setting tight deadlines for negotiations, GOP budget writers conceded Friday it may take another week before they can determine if a bipartisan balanced budget deal is possible.
"We've got another week's work to do," House Budget Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, said following the fourth day of budget talks with the administration. Senate Budget ranking member Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said, "We're within days of either walking away or starting a serious process."
And while Democrats have been pushing for the Budget committees to mark up a fiscal 1998 budget resolution, Lautenberg said that should be delayed to see if the talks can succeed. "We get nowhere with a markup at this juncture," he said.
Today's session centered on the administration's new spending initiatives. "We really sat and listened to the administration's list of new programs from A to Z," Kasich said. Those proposals ranged from school construction initiatives to children's health programs. And while both sides continued to pledge cooperation, Lautenberg said the administration briefing was met with "thunderous silence."
Kasich said the disparities centered on differing philosophies of government. He said, for example, that the administration wants to spend money on school construction projects, while Republicans want to reform the Davis-Bacon Act -- a move he said would cut school construction costs.
Office of Management and Budget Director Franklin Raines said the administration took the opportunity to try to be as persuasive as possible, noting, "There were expressions of interest in a number of things we said and expressions of disinterest in some of the things we said."
Both sides continued to pledge cooperation, but added it remains unclear whether a deal is possible. "The jury is still out," Raines said.
Senate Budget Chairman Domenici said the administration has expressed a willingness to compromise and Republicans have said they are willing to do the same. Kasich said the key is whether a deal can be cut without anyone having to compromise on their principles. "I don't know if it can be done," he said. "We're almost worlds apart."
The talks are set to resume Monday with a discussion of Medicaid. Asked if negotiations could last all week, Lautenberg said, "I hope not, but I'm afraid so." And it remained uncertain whether President Clinton would meet with the budget negotiators or GOP leaders this week.