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GOP leaders intent on avoiding budget crisis

GOP leaders intent on avoiding budget crisis

Republican leaders clearly expect a veto standoff with President Clinton over fiscal 2000 spending this fall-but in a nod to the failed shutdown strategy of 1995-96, they also are emphasizing they will not allow another budgetary "train wreck" to occur.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., laid out the Republican game plan Sunday on ABC's "This Week," saying, "I don't know of anybody that's looking for the so-called train wreck."

Lott suggested when Congress reaches the end of the fiscal year, those appropriations bills not yet passed could be rolled into "a continuing resolution for two weeks or a month or for a year. And you keep funding programs at the current year's level while you work through the process."

In an interview Friday with CongressDaily, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said, "There won't be a shutdown," but added Republican leaders will not pursue an appropriations "summit strategy" with the president, either.

If Clinton vetoes GOP-sponsored appropriations bills, DeLay said the Republicans' stance will be: "We spent the revenues according to our priorities, now you tell us what your priorities are and we'll try to work that out inside those revenues. Or Mr. President, if you want another $20 billion, $30 billion, $100 billion, then you're going to have to spend the Social Security surplus."

DeLay said Republicans will pay for FY2000 appropriations with either spending cuts, budget savings or the $14 billion on-budget surplus the CBO projects, but will not dip into the Social Security trust fund. DeLay said even the emergency spending approved by either chamber-$4.5 billion in the House for the census and $7.4 billion in the Senate for farmers-should be paid for without Social Security revenue.

DeLay also said the CBO's final numbers for 2000 may show an even larger on-budget surplus than expected. "We have another re-evaluation from CBO come January, and I'm willing to bet you there's going to be more revenues available" because of continued economic growth, he said.

Meanwhile, Republicans said they are sure they can enlist the support of the American people when they take the tax cut bill on the road this month. While Republican leaders have staged rallies and kicked off road shows more than once this year to rally enthusiasm for tax cuts, they said they are especially confident this time.

"We believe that public opinion is going to come out strong for this package as it is better understood and we believe the president will respond to that," House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, said on "Fox News Sunday."

One top GOP House aide said the fact that both the House and Senate have passed a $792 billion tax cut will make it much easier to present the idea to the American people.

Rather than "vague" promises of a tax cut, members of Congress can spend the next month letting their constituents know exactly what it contains for families, small businesses and farms, he said. In fact, pro-tax relief think tanks have already begun to break the bill down by state and congressional district, making it that much easier for members to connect the legislation to their constituents' lives.

NEXT STORY: George W. Bush in his own words