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
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: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future