Weary but triumphant, Republicans Thursday won passage in both the House and Senate of their sweeping blue-print to balance the budget by 2002 while slashing $245 billion in taxes. But the hardfought victory only augurs weeks of conflict with the White House and among themselves as Republicans seek to pass legislation implementing the stark cuts outlined in the plan.
Indeed, in the Senate, four moderate Republicans said they voted for the plan with deep misgivings over education and health cuts that emerged from House-Senate negotiations, and would fight to change them in later legislation. The budget plan passed in the Senate on a party-line vote of 54-46 as three Democrats who previously voted for a Senate-crafted budget with fewer tax cuts dropped their support.
House lawmakers worked through Wednesday night, taking only a 1-hour break Thursday morning, so their final debate was more perfunctory than profound.
The vote was 239-194, with eight Democrats joining the Republicans and just one Republican in opposition.
President Clinton’s signature is not required on the budget resolution, which envisions deep cuts in projected spending. While the military would see a modest increase, spending on domestic programs would be cut by about one-third over the next seven years. Medicare, the health care program for the elderly, would be cut by $270 billion, while Medicaid, the program for the poor, would be turned over to the states and cut by $182 billion. Under the plan, taxes would then be cut if congressional budget arbiters affirm the cuts would lead to a balanced budget.
Clinton, whose own 10-year plan to balance the budget has been largely dismissed by Republicans, has signaled he will veto most of the bills that would be required to fulfill the budget envisioned by Republicans.
As one sign of the battles to come, Republican leaders and the White House have negotiated for weeks over a bill cutting $16 billion from this year’s budget, haggling over extremely fine details.
Thursday House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and the president tried to bridge the gap, but the two sides still did not reach an agreement. So House Republicans pushed ahead with their last offer to Clinton.