Clinton fights Senate revolt: President faces charges of weakness if he fails to push deficit-cutting package through Congress

THE WHITE HOUSE is pulling out all the stops to thwart a move by a group of Democratic and Republican senators to kill President Bill Clinton's energy tax. The move could tear the heart from the President's ambitious economic package aimed at reducing the federal budget deficit by almost dollars 500bn (pounds 323bn) over the next five years.

The rebellion is being led by David Boren of Oklahoma, a Democrat who is a key member of the Senate Finance Committee. The Democrats' slender 11-9 majority in the committee means that his defection would be enough effectively to kill it.

Earlier this week Mr Boren, whose state is one of the country's main energy producers, declared he would oppose the tax, designed to raise dollars 71bn, 'in committee, on the floor, anywhere'. Three or four other Democratic senators largely share his view. Further defections could even cost the Democrats their Senate majority of 57-43, in any case likely to be reduced by one if the Republicans make their expected capture on 5 June of the Texas seat formerly held by the Treasury Secretary, Lloyd Bentsen.

Faced with a challenge that could destroy Mr Clinton's credibility in Congress, the White House is mounting a counter-offensive, arguing that the Boren plan, of deep cuts in welfare and other programmes, would merely penalise the poor and the elderly. 'Strip away the rhetoric,' said the President on Thursday, 'and there's dollars 40bn of burden on people just above the poverty line and dollars 40bn less on those of us who can afford to do a little more for our country.'

The immediate worry for the administration is that the very prospect of fresh trouble in the Senate could destroy the fragile majority for the Clinton programme in the House of Representatives, which is due to vote on it next week. Although the Democrats have a House majority of 80, misgivings about the energy tax are widespread. Many Congressmen are deeply unhappy about supporting a measure unpopular in their own constituencies, and which might now come to grief in the Senate.

But in wider terms, the energy tax dispute symbolises the difficulties of the Clinton presidency. The resistance by moderate Democrats, such as Mr Boren, reflects a growing perception - reinforced by attacks from the Republicans and a resurgent Ross Perot - that Mr Clinton is not the 'New Democrat' he portrayed himself as throughout the election campaign, but merely an old school 'tax-and-spend' liberal.

More than once during his trip this week to New Mexico and California, the President found himself under fire for reneging on his earlier promises of tax cuts for the middle class. Opinion polls, too, confirm that, while the public is prepared for sacrifice to reduce the deficit, it far prefers that this be done by cutting expenditure rather than by increasing taxes.

However, rounding out the dilemma for the President is the knowledge that to give way on the energy tax will cement an impression of weakness: that at the first whiff of opposition he instinctively reaches for compromise. Last month's demise of his dollars 16bn stimulus package heavily dented his authority on Capitol Hill. Surrender now would cost him further precious capital. In such a climate, the prospects of the health-care reforms due to be unveiled next month would be dismal indeed.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading indepen...

Recruitment Genius: Linux Systems Administrator

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Systems Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre Scho...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'