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Senate Budget Committee Approves Republican Budget, Medicare Plans

By Eric Pianin
The Washington Post

The Senate Budget Committee Monday cleared massive Republican legislation to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid, slash taxes and balance the budget, helping to set the stage for showdown votes in the Senate and House this week on the heart of GOP efforts to remake government.

With no sign of a thaw in the budget cold war between Republicans and the White House, congressional leaders prepared to push their historic budget proposals through both chambers despite increasingly tough administration veto talk.

Along strict party lines, the Senate Budget Committee voted 12 to 10 to bundle the work of 11 different committees designed to help meet the goal of balancing the budget by 2002 and sent the package to the floor for action beginning Wednesday. The House Rules Committee, meanwhile, will put the finishing touches on the House GOP version of the budget "reconciliation" plan on Wednesday, with a floor vote set for Thursday.

"This is an exercise in declaring once and for all it's not just what we want to give our citizens (in government program), but it's what we can afford," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.).

However, President Clinton, citing GOP cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, education and the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor, and changes that would allow raids on corporate pension programs, pledged to use his veto power whenever necessary. Addressing cheering delegates to an AFL-CIO meeting in New York City Monday night, Clinton declared: "I will use the tools at my command. If it takes a veto, you'll have it."

Earlier in the day, White House Chief of Staff Leon E. Panetta said that House and Senate GOP leaders were "wasting their time" and "wasting the time of the country" by refusing to negotiate a plan more in line with the administration's goals.

Senate and House GOP leaders appeared confident of passing their budget plans and ironing out the differences in conference. But given the time constraints and the tension between Capitol Hill and the White House, it is increasingly unlikely Republicans can complete work on all the annual spending and budget legislation before a Nov. 13 deadline.