Clinton lives to fight again on budget bill: Vice-President's casting vote breaks Senate deadlock

TWO DOWN but one to go. Such is the latest progress report on President Bill Clinton's vital budget and deficit-reduction bill after an exhausted Senate approved, by the narrowest possible margin, its version of the legislation shortly after 3am yesterday.

In the end, and despite 48 hours of virtually non-stop lobbying of Democratic waverers by Mr Clinton and top administration officials, it took the casting vote of the Vice-President, Al Gore, to break a 49-49 tie and send the bill into conference. There Senate and House negotiators will attempt to forge a compromise acceptable to both chambers, and which Mr Clinton can sign into law some time later this summer.

The first reaction from the White House was jubilant relief. The Senate, said Mr Clinton, had displayed 'remarkable courage' in the face of 'the same old rhetoric flying at them' from Republican ranks. He predicted the final version would be 'some way superior' to both the House and Senate efforts and enjoy broader support.

That task, though, will not be easy. The package which emerged from the Senate differs from that which won hair's breadth passage from the more liberal Democratic majority in the House four weeks earlier in several key respects. Gone is Mr Clinton's original across-the- board energy tax, replaced by a far narrower transport fuel tax, in essence little more than a 4.3 per cent per gallon tax on petrol.

To help recoup the lost revenue, and maintain the goal of reducing the deficit by around dollars 500bn (pounds 340bn) over the next five years, the Senate has cut into Medicare benefits for the elderly and disabled. Even so, the 44 Senate Republicans were united in their opposition to the last, leaving the fate of the measure - and in effect of Mr Clinton's entire presidency - squarely in the hands of Democrats divided as always between the party's liberal and conservative wings.

The White House was juggling the two factions throughout Thursday evening. But in the event six Democrats broke ranks: three fearful that support for a bill containing a record dollars 200bn of new taxes might doom their re-election prospects in 1994 and three Southern conservatives, including the powerful Sam Nunn of Georgia, who wanted deeper spending cuts.

When the crunch came, however, the imperilled prestige of their party's first presidency in 12 years seems to have been the decisive factor. Just enough Democratic Senators swallowed the misgivings many had voiced from the floor earlier in the day to allow Mr Clinton his triumph. Defeat, moreover, would have eaten into his already tenuous international authority, just a fortnight before his debut on the world stage at the G-7 summit in Tokyo.

But in the process the President's economic strategy has been reshaped. Only four months ago, in the rousing State of the Union address that remains the highwater mark of his young presidency, he laid as much emphasis on 'public investment' as on tax increases and spending cuts.

Since then the Senate has killed his dollars 16bn stimulus package and - goaded by Ross Perot's populist scoldings from the sidelines - increased the share of spending cuts of the deficit package. Compounding his current problems is a hostile black House caucus, whose 38 Democrats are threatening to veto any compromise embracing the welfare cuts contained in the Senate bill.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee