November 14, 1995 in Nation/World

Ideological Conflict Behind Crisis

William E. Gibson Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
 

Much of the federal government sputtered toward a halt this morning, an early casualty of an ideological war.

Behind the immediate crisis over the government shutdown and Uncle Sam’s inability to pay his bills is a stark disagreement between the White House and Republican leaders over which direction the nation should turn.

Republicans, stoked for political revolution, are trying to use a short-term funding bill to get a head start on their plans to scale back the power and spending of the federal government.

So they have sent the president a bill that approves the spending necessary to keep the government running - but also includes provisions that would raise Medicare premiums, restrict environmental regulations and cut federal programs.

President Clinton and other Democrats, struggling to preserve what they consider the best government programs that have evolved since the 1930s, cannot accept it.

Leaders on each side depicted themselves Monday as adult and oh-so-responsible. Each side chided the other for childishness and political posturing at the expense of the public interest.

And nobody blinked. Neither side wanted to be accused of abandoning its cause, yet both sides fear the public’s wrath as an election year approaches.

“We are admitting that we are unable to govern,” said Sen. John Breaux, D-La. “We are admitting that we can’t make it work.”

The House and Senate have passed a “continuing resolution” to keep the government operating while Congress and the White House settle on a seven-year budget plan. Congress also has delivered a bill that would raise the “debt ceiling,” which would allow the government to borrow enough money to pay its bills. But Clinton will not sign either of them.

The conflict stems from special provisions - called “riders” - that Republicans attached to these bills. The most controversial would raise monthly premiums for doctors’ care under Medicare.

The rider would immediately invoke the GOP’s plan to make Medicare monthly premiums cover 31.5 percent of the program’s cost. Those premiums now amount to $46.10 per recipient per month.

Republicans argued that the government needs to begin cutting its spending to have any chance of balancing the budget by the year 2002.

Republican leaders said compromise cannot be found until Clinton agrees to the goal of a balanced budget in seven years. Clinton said compromise cannot be found until Republicans remove Medicare from the current debate.

The stark difference in vision and priorities between a Republican-run Congress and a Democratic president will make compromise difficult.

xxxx CONTROVERSIAL RIDERS The debt-limit extension Clinton vetoed Monday also would have: Limited his ability to avert default. Committed him to a sevenyear balanced budget. Enacted House- and Senatepassed limits on death-row appeals. Eased health, safety and environmental regulations that Senate Democrats have blocked all year.


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