Gingrich to Push Balanced-Budget Plan, With Tax Limits : Legislation: Speaker to fight for tougher version, as opposed to the less restrictive Senate measure. He admits he needs help from House Democrats.
Opting for confrontation over compromise, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said Friday that he will push the House to adopt a balanced-budget amendment that severely limits Washington’s ability to raise taxes--rather than accept a less restrictive Senate version that enjoys broader support.
Gingrich said that if either balanced-budget measure fails to get the necessary two-thirds vote in Congress, the public should hold Democrats responsible.
His determination to enact a balanced-budget amendment containing the so-called tax-limitation clause--which would require a 60% vote of approval to win passage of tax increases in both houses of Congress--also puts him squarely at odds with many Senate Republicans, who have been saying that such a provision could kill the amendment in their chamber.
Gingrich cast aside such talk.
“I think that for us to surrender--to preemptively say: ‘Washington wins; we can’t get to a tax limitation vote'--is a big mistake,” he said. “It’s good for the country to see who wants to limit tax increases and who wants to raise taxes.”
Gingrich conceded that he will need the votes of about 70 House Democrats but vowed nevertheless to force a vote on the tax-limitation clause.
At a press conference, Gingrich promised to deliver at least 220 of the 230 Republican votes in the House, a block that would be well short of the 290 needed to pass the amendment.
Even though many top Senate Republicans have been telling reporters that the three-fifths provision cannot win approval in the upper chamber, Gingrich predicted that, if the House approves the balanced-budget amendment with the tax-limitation clause, the Senate will have little choice but to follow suit--given the “tremendous amount of public pressure” that will ensue.
Even if approved by both houses by a two-thirds majority, the balanced-budget amendment still must be ratified by at least 38 state legislatures. The amendment would require a balanced budget by the year 2002.
Even without the tax-limitation clause, the Senate version of the balanced-budget amendment is not likely to pass with more than one or two votes, according to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which handily approved the Senate version of the amendment Wednesday.
Although Gingrich did not say Thursday that he will support the amendment if the three-fifths provision fails, he is expected to do so. The House is scheduled to take up debate on the amendment next week. The Senate is to consider the issue in early February.
In other congressional action Thursday, Senate Democrats prevented Republicans from cutting off debate on a so-called unfunded mandates bill, which would make it difficult for Congress to pass laws that pose serious financial burdens on state and local governments without also providing funds to pay the costs incurred.
The Senate has been debating the measure for more than a week, and the desultory pace--with at least 117 amendments still pending--prompted Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) to file a cloture motion to cut off debate. But the motion failed to win the necessary 60 votes. Only one Democrat, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, joined the 53 Republican senators in voting to end debate.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) denied that his party is engaged in a filibuster, saying that many Democrats actually “support the intent of this legislation.” But he said that they object to being rushed to a vote while many “relevant amendments” are pending.
Dole was not convinced, saying that he could recognize a filibuster by whatever name.
The Kansas Republican also suggested that the continuing debate could threaten congressional approval of President Clinton’s proposal to provide Mexico with $40 billion in loan guarantees to prop up its economy. Legislation on the loan guarantees will be taken up after action on the unfunded mandates bill.
Also on Thursday, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry G. Cisneros asked Republicans in Congress not to eliminate his department.
“The dismantling of HUD would risk federal abandonment of low-income housing needs,” Cisneros told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on veterans affairs, HUD and independent agencies.
He also detailed his plan to consolidate 60 major programs into three performance-based programs, thus saving $13 billion by 1998.
One program would provide direct assistance to low-income households by granting housing certificates to families and individuals. The second would create an affordable housing fund to finance construction and rehabilitation of housing. The third would start a community opportunity fund to stimulate economic development in communities.
In another hearing, supporters and detractors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting sparred over whether public television and radio stations may be running afoul of the law by airing messages to stir up public support for continued federal funding.
At a hearing of the House Appropriations labor, health and human services and education subcommittee, Chairman Bob Livingston (R-La.) said that the messages could violate a labor law prohibiting use of federal money to influence legislation.
As lawmakers considered the extent to which the government should continue to fund public broadcasting, Gingrich, who has advocated eliminating all federal support, softened his stance.
“I am not fixed in concrete,” he said, suggesting that rural stations perhaps should be permitted to continue receiving federal money.
The public broadcasting agency receives $285 million annually in federal funds--14% of the public broadcasting industry’s total income. The corporation distributes those federal dollars to more than 1,000 stations and groups, including the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio.
Times staff writer Elizabeth Shogren contributed to this story.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Developments on the Hill / The 104th Congress
In the House: The Budget Committee debated how much federal money should be made available for public broadcasting. Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) backed away from his earlier pledge to eliminate the funding entirely.
Debate began on the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, which would prohibit the federal government from imposing unfunded projects on the states. A vote is expected next week.
In the Senate: Republicans failed to break a Democratic filibuster on the unfunded mandates bill. Proponents promised to try again today.
Today: The House will continue debate on the unfunded mandates legislation.
The balanced budget amendment will be debated before a Joint Economic Committee.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) will address the second day of the three-day annual winter meeting of the Republican National Committee.
The House Ways and Means Health subcommittee will discuss tax incentives for long-term health care insurance as part of the Senior Citizens’ Equity Act and the Small Business committee conducts hearings on the tax deductibility of health insurance costs for the self-employed.