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Clinton Orders Thousands Back To Work Despite Budget Absence

By Paul Richter
Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

President Clinton Thursday ordered thousands of furloughed government employees back to work next week to limit the disruption caused by the partial federal shutdown, even as he vowed to veto GOP-sponsored legislation that would provide stopgap funds to resume all suspended government operations.

As the federal closure stretched through an unprecedented three work days, Clinton ordered back some 50,000 Social Security workers, 1,700 Department of Veteran's Affairs employees, and 100 Medicare employees to resume processing claims filed by older people and veterans.

Noting on an average day that 28,000 Americans apply for Social Security benefits, 10,000 for Medicare and 7,500 for veteran's assistance, Clinton said in an Oval Office appearance that "without remedial action the backlog will be so great that service to these citizens would not return to normal for months to come. ... I am determined to do what I can to reduce the damage to our people."

A total of 800,000 employees, or 40 percent of the civilian federal workforce, were furloughed Tuesday after the White House and Congress failed to agree on measures to authorize further federal borrowing and spending. The furlough has been the longest ever, and officials on both sides say it could continue for many more days.

The Senate sent to Clinton late Thursday night a stopgap spending measure that would provide funds to the government to resume normal operations while Congress and the White House thrash out the final acts of the 1996 budget battle.

But Clinton promised to immediately veto the continuing resolution, calling for a balanced budget in seven years, because it would compel him to swallow "highly unacceptable" cuts in government services.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., countered: "He's made it pretty clear he doesn't want a balanced budget. That's the issue."