Clinton makes fiscal 2001 budget decisions

Clinton makes fiscal 2001 budget decisions

Most of the major decisions for the fiscal 2001 budget have been made, and President Clinton is now focused mainly on planning his State of the Union speech, White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said Monday.

Most of the major decisions were made during a series of about a half-dozen budget meetings Clinton convened with top staffers during December. Lockhart added that "some" major policy choices remain, but that these would be finalized this week. He vowed a "very aggressive domestic agenda" during the final 12 months of the Clinton presidency, flatly denying a report in Monday's New York Times that foreign policy would be Clinton's primary focus.

Many policy details are likely to emerge in carefully staged media leaks and at official announcements by the president during the few weeks remaining before Clinton's annual address to Congress.

Lockhart suggested the fact that this is an election year would actually increase the odds of getting things done, indicating cooperation may increase with the GOP. "If you look at the broad areas that you know the president's going to pursue-sensible gun control, Patients' Bill of Rights, health care-I think members of Congress who in the past sought to block these measures, as they go home and look for support from their constituents as we get closer to election day, might have a change of attitude," Lockhart said.

He denied, on the other hand, that Democrats seeking issues with which to challenge GOP control of Congress would present an obstacle.

"In 1998, congressional Democrats and the president worked very hard to get things passed. We got a lot of things done," Lockhart said. "Democrats campaigned on what we got done, and said we need to do more," he added, noting that the result was a loss for the GOP in the congessional elections.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, issued a statement indicating that the debate on many key issues will be a replay of last year's struggle.

In addition to urging Clinton to "break his habit of including tax increases in every budget he proposes," Armey criticized the idea of reviving Clinton's so-called USA Accounts, saying, "We should give individuals more control over their own retirement security, not set up another government program."

Armey welcomed the president's call for tax breaks to make it easier for more people to acquire health care insurance and offered up his own proposal for a $3,000 per family credit to help uninsured Americans purchase health insurance.

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