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Budget Deal Passed

The 296-135 vote puts numerous spending provisions now in the hands of the Senate, as leaders in both parties, including the president, claim victory.

“Both sides can be proud of this accord,” House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said after 10 days of balancing between White House and Congressional demands.

“The president got his priorities, we got our priorities,” said House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri.

The budget package covers five of the 13 annual spending bills, financing the departments of Interior, Health and Human Services, foreign aid and scores of other programs, agencies and departments. President Clinton has already signed eight other bills into law.

Before coming to an agreement, though, lawmakers had to resolve a number of snags over issues such as milk pricing and mountaintop coal mining.

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., unsuccessfully pushed to let the mountaintop mines continue dumping rubble into valleys and streams.

The milk provision made it in, however, despite the stiff opposition of Congressmen from Midwestern dairy states.

Most lawmakers showed little interest in the individual provisions, preferring instead to avoid a government shutdown to debating regional issues.

The agreement also has the backing of President Clinton, who commented from Istanbul, Turkey, where he is attending a European leaders summit.

“This budget is a victory, and a hard-won victory, for the American people,” he told reporters.

Not perfect, but good enough

Both sides in the debate claim the bill — though not perfect — meet the goals of their parties.

President Clinton says 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.

Senators will begin debating the bill Friday or Saturday.