Northwest Republicans cheered President Clinton’s call for a balanced budget but said they want to see if the numbers in Thursday’s budget live up to Tuesday’s words.
“I counted 19 new spending programs mentioned in President Clinton’s speech,” Sen. Slade Gorton of Washington said Tuesday night.
Sen. Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho was similarly skeptical: “I’d be interested to see how he brings about balance with all the new programs he’s now advocating.”
Rep. George Nethercutt of Spokane echoed the theme: “The real test of President Clinton’s philosophy will come this Thursday when he releases his 1998 budget.”
Sen. Larry Craig, a longtime proponent of the Balanced Budget Amendment, said he was pleased with Clinton’s call to cut the deficit, but unhappy that the president thought it could be done without the amendment.
“I was disappointed that the president was openly opposing the Balanced Budget Amendment,” Craig, of Idaho, said.
Past budgets have called for declining deficits during years when Clinton would be in office, Craig said, but have left tough choices that could balloon the deficit for the next administration.
Overall, Idaho’s senior senator rated it a good speech, particularly for the suggestions of tax incentives and education initiatives.
He wondered, however, why Clinton failed to mention nuclear waste and its cleanup in his list of environmental concerns.
The Northwest’s senior Senate Democrat, Patty Murray, was not available for comment on the president’s speech. Murray had flown to Spokane on Tuesday for the funeral of her aide, Patrick Ormsby, and spent most of the afternoon and evening traveling back to the capital.
Rep. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, applauded Clinton’s call for bipartisanship before he even began speaking.
Chenoweth was in Grants Pass, Ore., Tuesday for the funeral of her mother, Ardelle Palmer. She issued a statement prior to the speech saying Americans share common goals, regardless of party affiliation.
“I believe there has been too much partisan rancor, especially during the past year,” she said. “The attempts by some to scare people for political advantage have gotten in the way of solving the very real problems facing our nation.”
Nethercutt said the Republican Congress would work with Clinton “where there is common ground.”
But he questioned whether Clinton’s education proposals were on the right track. Rather than setting up new programs with new regulations, the federal government should send education money directly to the states, Nethercutt said.