Clinton Dismisses GOP Proposals on Budget

TIMES STAFF WRITER

President Clinton on Saturday took a tough line in the budget battle with congressional Republicans, saying "there should be no threat of another government shutdown."

The president brushed aside GOP proposals to offer some additional funds for domestic programs Clinton favors as part of a budget-balancing package that would include GOP-backed changes in Medicare.

"A deal to trade education spending for Medicare cuts is no deal at all," the president said in his weekly radio address, taped in California during his 23rd visit to the state since he entered the Oval Office.

"It's wrong to choose between our parents and our children, leaving hard-pressed working families squeezed in the middle and undermining our economy through reduced investments in education," Clinton said, sounding a theme the Democrats hope to use in the elections this year.

The address offered another sign that there is no immediate compromise in sight to provide money for the Cabinet agencies now operating under short-term authority, which expires Friday.

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Government shutdowns took place in November and again during a period in December and January after the president and Congress failed to agree on a plan to balance the federal budget.

The shutdown "was wrong the first time. It was wrong the second time. And three wrongs certainly don't make a right," the president said.

Clinton proclaimed his belief in a balanced budget but emphasized his strong disagreement with the Republicans on how the savings should be achieved.

"I want to work with Congress, but we don't need to do things which will undermine our ability to support our families through Medicare and Medicaid, or undermine our ability to protect the environment, or undermine our ability to grow our economy and raise the incomes of all Americans through investments in education," he said.

The president said his budget plan can curtail spending, but he accused Congress of seeking excessive reductions in key programs. Some members of Congress "have offered to reduce their cuts in education for our children and the protection of our environment this year if I will agree to even harsher cuts in health care for the elderly and for poor children," he said. "Now, we don't need to cut any of those efforts beyond the hundreds of millions of dollars in savings we've already both identified."

The Clinton administration has been seeking $8 billion more for domestic programs in recent budget talks with Republicans. The GOP counteroffer was for $3 billion, but the money would be offset by savings in other programs, such as Medicare. Clinton says such savings would be unacceptable.

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The longer-range fiscal crisis was postponed again when both houses of Congress voted Thursday to extend the government's borrowing authority until March 29. That move avoids the threat of a default on March 21, when the Treasury had said it would run out of authority to raise money.

In the Republican response to the president's speech, Rep. Michael Patrick Flanagan (R-Ill.) said the House will vote this week on a bill to make the death penalty "a real tool for law enforcement."

The GOP bill "will ensure that the death penalty is imposed in most appropriate cases and carried out in a timely fashion after a fair appeals process," Flanagan said.

"We must clear up the appeals process so that our crime-fighters have a real tool to punish violent criminals and to make potential criminals think twice about doing the crime."

There is a "morass of bureaucracy" creating numerous appeals and delays in death penalty cases, he said.

The bill also increases penalties for bombing or burning federal buildings and property.

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