Congress shipped President Clinton an emergency bill Friday to keep the government open when the new fiscal year commences Sunday, but splits among Republicans derailed a pair of major spending measures in the House.
By voice vote and with no debate, the Senate sent Clinton legislation that will keep agencies functioning through Nov. 13, despite the budget stalemate between lawmakers and the administration. Congress then left for a weeklong Columbus Day recess.
The stopgap spending bill, approved by the House on Thursday, would let both parties avert blame for what would have been the furloughs of an estimated 800,000 federal workers. It also would give them six more weeks to resolve their fiscal disputes.
“This is the kind of cooperation that makes it possible for our country not only to work but to be great, and I hope we will have more of it,” Clinton said before the vote. He has said he will sign the measure.
The stopgap measure was necessary because the government will begin fiscal 1996 with none of its budget in place. Just two of the 13 annual spending bills have cleared Congress, and administration officials said Clinton would sign neither measure on his desk - financing congressional operations and military construction - by Sunday.
With administration veto threats lodged against eight of the 13 spending measures, it was clear that Republicans faced a long, difficult climb before their vision of smaller social programs and a beefier Pentagon could become reality.
The House demonstrated how hard it will be for lawmakers to complete their budget work as the chamber dealt lopsided defeats to measures financing the departments of Defense and Interior.
“I don’t think we’re falling apart, but obviously we have individuals who have their own agenda,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston, R-La., said of the Republican defections that defeated the two measures in the House. “If people are incapable of compromises … they undermine our goals.”
Democrats said the sluggish pace of Congress’ spending work was more attributable to the GOP’s lacing the measures with restrictions on environmental, safety and other laws.
“It indicates how badly warped the Republican sense of priorities has been,” said Rep. David Obey, R-Wis.
In the Senate, the GOP was finding things nearly as futile.
A day after minority Democrats forced Republicans to lay aside a measure trimming education, labor and health programs, the Senate by voice approved a $27 billion bill financing the departments of Commerce, Justice and State. Both measures had already been targeted by Clinton for vetoes.
Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., and other GOP leaders had begged their colleagues to approve the two bills quickly so Clinton could reject them and the work of rewriting them could begin. But the labor-education-health measure proved so controversial that the Senate left it for when it returns from its recess.
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