With the biggest display of bipartisanship in decades, the House Wednesday approved legislation designed to end the long flow of federal deficit spending with a balanced budget by 2002.
By a 346-85 vote, the House endorsed the first of a two-part budget and tax package negotiated by President Clinton and Republican congressional leaders after more than two years of bitter wrangling.
The lopsided vote reflected the bipartisan coalition that has coalesced around the landmark legislation. Voting for the measure were 193 Republicans and 153 Democrats; opposed were 62 Democrats, 32 Republicans and one independent.
Rep. John Kasich, R-Ohio, House Budget Committee chairman, declared that by laying aside partisanship, Clinton and Congress had put together “a balanced budget that’s real.”
But Kasich warned that Medicare and Social Security must still be changed.
On the Democratic side, Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, a key player in the lengthy negotiations, got a standing ovation, led by Republicans, when he told the House that while the package was far from perfect, “Count the victories.”
The legislation would virtually freeze spending on most domestic programs beginning Oct. 1 through the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2002 - reversing more than six decades of expanding federal spending in support of social programs. It would also curb projected spending on Medicare by $115 billion, the biggest single swipe in the legislation.
At the same time, the bill carves out new spending for education, health and environment initiatives that Clinton established as his price for agreeing to the GOP’s demand for tax cuts.
The most significant new spending provision, which liberal Democrats praised and conservative Republicans denounced, is a $24 billion effort over five years to provide health care to about half of the 10 million children who now lack insurance coverage.
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