Clinton: Deficit Won't Disappear

Meeting at the White House today with congressional leaders following a week-long trip to Europe, President Clinton took strong issue with contentions that--due to a strong economy--the deficit would "disappear" without further action by Congress and the White House.

"There are some, I have heard since I've been gone, who have argued that since the deficit has dropped dramatically, it will somehow disappear just if we leave the '93 [administration deficit reduction] plan in place and don't do anything else," Clinton told reporters before the session with the bipartisan congressional leadership. "I have to say that I emphatically disagree with that. It is true that the deficit has dropped more than we predicted it would in '93, and we're proud of that. ... But the idea that we don't have to do anything, I think, is dead wrong."

The president said OMB Director Raines "told me just this morning that if we did nothing, it wouldn't balance--the budget would not balance."

After the session, congressional leaders described the meeting as a forum for Republicans and Democrats as well as the president to stake out their positions on the issues.

However, the parties apparently opted not to argue over details. "No one got any specifics out of this," said House Ways and Means ranking member Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. "It was a pep talk." House Speaker Gingrich described the talks as "very useful," and added the president "showed great flexibility" in listening to Republican concerns about extending the proposed $500-per-child tax credit to families already receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit.

On Medicare, Rangel said Clinton reiterated his belief that the most controversial issues in the Senate Finance Committee plan, including raising the eligibility age and means testing premium payments, should be "part of a larger discussion" of Medicare's long-term future. Senate Majority Leader Lott stuck to his stance that the IRS ought not administer any Medicare means testing.

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