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REP. NEWT GINGRICH, Speaker of the House: The time having expired, the vote is 227 yes, 203 no.
KWAME HOLMAN: Early this evening, the House of Representatives approved its reconciliation package, which, in effect, approves all elements of the Republicans’ seven-year plan to balance the budget, and it fulfills the pledge House Republicans made one year ago when they signed their Contract With America.
REP. CHARLES NORWOOD, (R) Georgia: In the reconciliation, we are going to do the things the voters actually asked us to do when they swept the liberal Democrats out of office.
REP. DEBORAH PRYCE, (R) Ohio: The truth is the Republican Congress has worked long and hard to bring us to this moment in time when we are about to pass legislation to end years of rapidly expanding government and to start this pendulum swinging the other way.
REP. PORTER GOSS, (R) Florida: We are creating jobs, opportunity for Americans to work, opportunity to expand our economy, while at the same time, we control the cancerous growth of rampant, runaway federal spending, which so many have closed their eyes to for so long.
KWAME HOLMAN: House Democrats, left out of the budget process for the first time in forty years, had a different perspective on the significance of the day.
REP. JOE MOAKLEY, (D) Massachusetts: Mr. Speaker, the more I look at the bill, the more horrified I become. This bill is an enormous collection of heartless attacks on American children, senior citizens, and working families. And the worst part, the most disappointing aspect of the whole horrible collection of mean-spirited cuts, is that they’re made in order to lower the taxes for the very, very, very rich.
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT, (D) Texas: If you make $30,000 or less, these Republicans are going to raise your taxes, plain and simple. To the many who are trying to climb up that economic ladder and share in the American dream, they stamp on their working fingers as they try to climb up that ladder. That’s why we call it (holding up sign with “WRECKonciliation” written on it) “WRECKonciliation,” because it wrecks working families that are trying to make a go of it.
KWAME HOLMAN: During the course of the debate, Democrats employed a strategy similar to one Republicans used in attacking President Clinton’s budget two years ago. Each Republican speaker was reminded of the impact their budget plan would have on their constituents back home.
REP. RON LEWIS, (R) Kentucky: It is time that we balance our budget.
REP. ELIOT ENGEL, (D) New York: In response to the gentleman from Kentucky, did you know that in your district 34,543 working families will have their taxes increased by this Republican bill and in the state of Kentucky, students will have $75 million less in student loans?
SPOKESMAN: The gentleman’s time has expired.
KWAME HOLMAN: Despite the personalized pressure, Republicans’ support for their reconciliation package held firm.
REP. DICK CHRYSLER, (R) Michigan: It is the most compassionate thing that we can do for the children of America. And one of the best ways to help the children in America is to help their mom and dad and let ‘em have the basic human dignity and pride that comes from bringing home a pay check. We need less government and lower taxes. We need to let people keep more of what they earn and save, and we need to let people make their own decisions how they spend their money, not government.
KWAME HOLMAN: While members of the House debated their reconciliation bill under a strict time limit, progress in the Senate was slow. Democrats used Senate rules to offer dozens of amendments in an attempt to chip away various elements of the Republican budget plan.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY, (D) Washington: Mr. President, this Republican–
KWAME HOLMAN: Sen. Patty Murray of Washington called for cutting so-called “corporate welfare” and expanding the earned income tax credit for low income workers.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY: Taking away this tax credit adds insult to injury. The EITC keeps people off welfare. It offsets other forms of federal assistance. It gives American parents the security they need to enter the work force.
KWAME HOLMAN: And Arkansas’ Dale Bumpers tried to put off the bill’s $245 billion in tax cuts until the budget is certified as balanced.
SEN. DALE BUMPERS, (D) Arkansas: Do not, do not cut taxes when we’re running this kind of a deficit. Balance the budget and then talk about taxes.
KWAME HOLMAN: There were so many amendments Senators had trouble keeping track.
SEN. MAX BAUCUS, (D) Montana: The Kassebaum amendment would come up after the Kennedy amendment.
SEN. ROBERT DOLE, Majority Leader: Right.
SEN. MAX BAUCUS: There is an ambiguous point as to when the Bumpers amendment, a vote on the Bumpers amendment and a vote on the Baucus amendment would occur.
SEN. ROBERT DOLE: So it’ll be Kassebaum, then Bumpers, then Baucus.
SEN. MAX BAUCUS: And then the other second-tier amendments.
SEN. ROBERT DOLE: Then the second-tier amendments, and then the third-tier amendments–
SEN. MAX BAUCUS: After that.
SEN. ROBERT DOLE: –we hope will find their way to the waste basket.
KWAME HOLMAN: Majority Leader Robert Dole did work out compromises on increased funding for Medicaid and student loan programs, not appease Democrats, but to secure the votes of moderate Republicans. He’ll need those votes tomorrow when the Senate takes final action on the reconciliation bill.