Day Four of the Government Shutdown
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KWAME HOLMAN: The House was back to voting today on the Republicans’ seven-year balanced budget which now includes some minor changes negotiated with the Senate. Republicans readily admit they didn’t draw up their plan to benefit the current generation as much as the next generation.
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI, (R) New York: Today we say no more, no more to having a child born today, having to spend close to $200,000 over the course of their lifetime in taxes to just pay interest on the debt. Every American deserves a better future.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Democrats claim the Republican budget will do irreparable harm to the current generation. They call it nothing less than immoral.
REP. MEL WATT, (D) North Carolina: I want the American people and my colleagues to understand that this is a killer bill. The truth cannot be avoided. This bill will kill elderly people by depriving them of medical care. It will kill young people by forcing them into poverty and denying them food. It will kill the priorities of our country which I understand to be compassion.
KWAME HOLMAN: Among the money-saving provisions contained in the Republicans’ seven-year balanced budget plan, Medicare reform, expected to save $270 billion over the next seven years, Medicaid reform, expected to save $170 billion, and welfare reform, expected to save $81 billion. The budget phases out most farm subsidy programs and reduces the earned income tax credit program. It provides a $500 per child tax credit and reduces the top capital gains tax rate from 28 percent to 19.8 percent. It’s all part of an overall $245 billion reduction in taxes over seven years. It’s that combination of tax cuts and reductions in Medicare spending that has Democrats most upset.
REP. PETE STARK, (D) California: Twenty-six million Americans will become uninsured as a result of this $270 billion–Marie Antoinette would have called it a decapitation–you don’t want to call it a cut–it’s a reduction, and for the twenty-six million people who are going to lose their insurance, nine million people get 80 percent of the tax cuts.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Republicans familiar with the Democrats’ charges have been quick to respond.
REP. JIM KOLBE, (R) Arizona: I just want to correct one thing that the last speaker said. This makes it very clear. 65 percent of the tax relief benefits go to people with incomes below $75,000; 65 percent of the tax relief goes to those people.
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS, (R) Connecticut: The gentleman is also incorrect about what we’re doing with Medicare. We’re spending more. We’re spending 40 percent per beneficiary and 54 percent more in total.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today’s debate got emotional, close to personal.
REP. DAVID BONIOR, (D) Michigan: This budget, this budget is so extreme that Speaker Gingrich had to manufacture a crisis, shut down the government to try to force the President to accept it. Well–
KWAME HOLMAN: The boos came from the Republican side, prompting Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich to urge his colleagues to show some restraint.
REP. JOHN KASICH, Chairman, Budget Committee: I would like to make a point of order, that I would ask my colleagues to show the gentleman respect and let him make his talk and show each other a little respect here. Let him finish.
KWAME HOLMAN: The boos later turned to cheers when Kasich, the architect of the Republicans’ seven-year budget, made a final pitch for his plan.
REP. JOHN KASICH: Balancing this budget and slowing the growth of federal spending is the key to making sure that, in fact, these young people’s future continues to look brighter. God bless you. Let’s pass the Balanced Budget Act of 1995.
KWAME HOLMAN: The House approved the Republican plan. The Senate is expected to do the same. But with the President promising a veto, both Houses will be back at some point to vote again. Meanwhile, more furloughed federal employees are returning to work, even though Congress and the President have yet to agree on a temporary spending bill to fund the government. Just under 50,000 employees have returned to work since the partial shutdown began on Tuesday. Most were at the Department of Transportation, now up and running because Congress passed the Transportation Appropriations Bill and the President signed it on Wednesday. And next Monday, another 51,000 employees will resume processing benefits claims at the Social Security and Veterans Administrations. They were re-classified as essential by the President, who cited the 28,000 new claims that pile up at the Social Security Administration each day.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: If the government shutdown continues to prevent action to accept applications for Medicare, Social Security, and veterans’ benefits made by seniors and veterans, this backlog would be so great that service to these citizens would not return to normal for months to come.
KWAME HOLMAN: But for 700,000 still-furloughed workers, the end of the current crisis may not come until their department’s funding bills are approved one by one.