Clinton, Congress close in on budget

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Clinton offered congressional leaders a number of proposals Monday to end the long-running battle over school spending, immigration and other issues, raising hopes for a budget agreement.

Nothing was final, but both sides said after a meeting at the White House that they may be close to ending the spending disputes that forced the lame-duck Congress back to town this week for the second time since the November election.

"Everyone pledged to use the next couple of days to see if we can pull together agreements and wrap things up this week," White House spokesman Elliot Diringer said after the 90-minute Oval Office session.

A Democrat familiar with the meeting said Clinton offered to trim $1 billion to $2 billion from an $18 billion increase for education, health and labor programs. House GOP leaders reject the earlier spending levels as too costly. The Democrat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Republicans want to cut the spending a little more.

Susan Irby, spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said the session was "a pleasant meeting" but that no final decisions were made.

Another Republican said an agreement could be completed this week, although emphasizing that disagreements remained. The officials, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said rank-and-file GOP lawmakers would hear the proposal Ttoday.

Also attending the meeting were House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.; House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas; House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo.; and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Another round of talks was possible on Wednesday.

To give negotiators time to work, the two sides agreed to push a measure through Congress on today temporarily keeping agencies open through Thursday. The current short-term bill keeping agencies’ doors open expires tonight.

The two sides’ budget disputes have left four must-pass spending bills overdue by two months and paralyzed efforts to cut taxes, boost Medicare payments to health-care providers and raise the federal minimum wage.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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