Clinton, Congress agree on basics of budget

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Clinton and congressional leaders ended months of bitter stalemate Monday and agreed to the outlines of a budget agreement, boosting the chance that the lame-duck 106th Congress could adjourn by week’s end.

The compromise included $108.9 billion for many education, labor and health programs, said Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. That would be nearly $13 billion more than was spent last year, a victory for Clinton, but roughly $4 billion less than last month’s tentative agreement. GOP leaders had demanded the cut.

"We believe we have an agreement on a framework on health and education spending," White House spokesman Elliot Diringer said after an Oval Office meeting between Clinton and House and Senate leaders that lasted more than one hour.

"I think we have the parameters" of a compromise figure for spending, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said after the third meeting in eight days between Clinton and the leaders.

Details of the package were to be made final after rank-and-file lawmakers agree to the outline. Its completion would herald an end to a divisive Congress that commenced with the Senate’s impeachment trial of Clinton, and was ending with partisan recriminations over the disputed presidential election.

"It is time that we wrap up our business," said Rep. Nancy Johnson, R-Conn. Legislators had initially hoped this Congress would adjourn in October.

Whatever the final figures, the accord was certain to include increases for Clinton priorities including hiring teachers, renovating schools, Pell grants for needy college students and job training. Also poised for a big boost was biomedical research, a favorite of both parties.

As part of the deal, Republicans were dropping an effort to block a Clinton administration rule requiring employers to take steps to reduce workplace injuries, an issue that had pitted the GOP’s business backers against Democrats’ labor supporters.

The agreement also included an across-the-board cut of about $1 billion — less than 0.2 percent — in many defense and domestic programs, an easing of immigration restrictions far less ambitious than what Clinton had sought, and a five-year increase in Medicare reimbursements to health-care providers of at least $30 billion, plus at least $1.7 billion more for rural health and other Medicare coverage.

The deal could also include proposed tax breaks for investors in poor urban and rural communities, pushed for months by Clinton and Hastert. The House approved a $25 billion, 10-year version of those tax cuts this year, though it languished in the Senate as part of a larger measure Clinton opposed.

House and Senate leaders were hoping to push the package through Congress as early as Thursday.

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