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Senate Passes Budget Deal

BY Admin  November 19, 1999 at 7:30 PM EST

The vote was 74 – 24.

Just hours before, however, Senators faced the prospect of an all-night budget challenge posed by a coalition of four Midwestern senators. The small, but adamant, group led by Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl, claimed milk price controls contained in the package would hurt dairy farmers in the Upper Midwest.

But later in the afternoon, Kohl and his colleagues backed down under lack of support and the promise of Republican cooperation on the issue when it next comes up in Congress.

“The Senate teaches you patience,” said a relieved Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., after the way was cleared for the year’s final votes. “If there’s anything in the world that’s like a good wine, it’s the Senate.”

The $390-billion spending measure finances seven Cabinet departments and other agencies for the new fiscal year. Lawmakers, though, finished their budget work 50 days late and exceeded spending limits they approved just two years ago.

The dairy-state senators announced they would not impede the vote at a news conference, as aides dressed in a black-and-white cow costume stood with them.

“We have run out of leverage,” said Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., a member of the coalition, at the conference.

Both sides claim victory

Republicans and Democrats say the bill — though not perfect — meet the goals of their parties. After it passed in the House, both claimed victory.

President Clinton, who is expected to sign the budget, and fellow Democrats say the agreement will help clean the environment, reduce school class sizes and fight crime.

Republicans say they achieved their goal of balancing the budget while protecting the Social Security Trust Fund.

In addition the agreement:

  • imposes a 0.38 percent across-the-board cut for federal programs.
  • allocates more than $1 billion to pay mounting back dues to the United Nations. The funds had been held up in a controversy over international abortion policies.
  • clears the International Monetary Fund to revalue part of its gold reserves to fund $3.1 billion of debt relief for poor nations, and provides $1.8 billion to implement the Wye River Middle East peace accords.

Both parties hope to claim the bill as an accomplishment to boast during the 2000 election year.