Clinton steers for fiscal collision

RUPERT CORNWELL

Washington

President Bill Clinton yesterday set himself fully on course for a showdown with Congress this autumn which will decide not only the fate of the Republicans' proclaimed "fiscal revolution", but possibly his chances of winning a second White House term in 1996.

While the contentious, politically-charged hearings on Whitewater and Waco are occupying the headlines, the real battle on Capitol Hill in the last weeks before the summer recess has been conducted in closed committee rooms. There, Republican legislators have been working out details of the sweeping spending cuts - including healthcare, welfare and education - that will be enshrined in 13 appropriations bills for the 1995/1996 fiscal year, starting on 1 October.

The cuts are the crucial first stage of the Republican grand plan to balance the federal budget by 2002. But Mr Clinton has made it clear he will veto the measures in their present form. Barring compromise, which neither side is ready to countenance, or the even less likely prospect of the Republicans mustering a two-thirds major- ity to override the President, the stage is set for a "train wreck" collision that could shut down whole areas of the government by mid-October.

In the latest of a string of budget speeches yesterday, Mr Clinton sprang to the defence of Medicare, the federal healthcare scheme for the elderly and disabled, which the Republicans intend to slash by $270bn (pounds 170bn) over the next seven years. "We must not balance the budget by cutting Medicare," said the President, whose own proposal to achieve equilibrium within 10 years includes gentler reductions in Medicare.

Thus continues a game of chicken between a Republican Congress committed to a massive reduction in the role of federal government, and a President who entered office promising change, but who now portrays himself as a defender of ordinary Americans and the status quo against the excesses of his ideologically-driven opponents on Capitol Hill. "I must continue to act, alone if necessary, to protect the common ground," Mr Clinton declared this week.

The stakes could hardly be higher. A cave-in by the Republicans would destroy the credibility of the "Contract with America," and its promise to balance the budget and cut taxes. Were Mr Clinton to accept that plan however, he would be acknowledging his own irrelevance to the policy process, and would alienate swaths of his own Democratic voters, barely a year before the election.

But the White House strategy may be starting to pay off. Poll after poll now suggests that the initial public honeymoon with the Republican Congress is over, as its disapproval rating has climbed from under 30 per cent after the November mid-term election to over 60 per cent now.

While support for the broad economic strategy of the Republicans is strong, it fades once the painful spending cuts it entails become apparent. The climax of the struggle will arrive in the autumn. If the 1995/96 appropriations bills are not law by 1 October, a partial shutdown of government could come within a few days.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week