Even as GOP leaders Thursday vowed to get the remaining appropriations measures to President Clinton by the time the current continuing resolution expires next Thursday, White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart Friday all but offered Congress a one-week extension.
Clinton, Lockhart indicated, would grant Republicans another CR "if they can make a credible case about why they think they need an extra week to finish their work." But faced with GOP determination to put the onus on the president for not completing the budget process, Lockhart argued that seeking to wrap up the year by sending Clinton bills he will not sign was tantamount to Congress not finishing its work. "If they want to send bills down here that they know we'll veto, then they'll need to ask for another CR," he said. But Lockhart maintained the White House is "not going to be happy" about a further CR.
Although Lockhart said Clinton does not want a government shutdown and hopes to work with Republicans, he offered some of the most scathing rhetoric yet to describe GOP consideration of the budget.
"They've gone from bad ideas, to terrible ideas, to hyper-terrible ideas," he charged.
Meanwhile, Senate Budget Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., Friday predicted Clinton would seek a strategy of rolling at least four spending bills into an fiscal 2000 omnibus budget bill, but said congressional Republicans want individual bills and provide continuing resolutions if needed.
"If he wants to close down the government, I'm going to be suggesting that's his doing, not ours," Domenici told members of the National Italian American Foundation.
Domenici also said a "very significant philosophical battle" had begun in Congress over how to spend non-Social Security budget surpluses, urging Republicans guard against new government programs.