US finally breaks deadlock on budget

RUPERT CORNWELL

Washington

President Bill Clinton and Congress last night reached a stopgap budget agreement ending the six-day shut down of the federal government and committing both sides to negotiate to achieve a balanced budget within seven years.

The deal, which permits government spending to resume at 75 per cent of previous levels, runs until 15 December. By then the Republican-controlled Congress should have sent to the White House the full set of 13 spending bills covering the 1995/96 fiscal year which began on 1 October.

The shutdown laid off 800,000 "non-essential" workers, a third of the federal work force, and closed social security offices, passport and veterans' services as well as federally run monuments and tourist attractions, from the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty.

On both sides the initial reaction was less to claim victory than sheer relief that an impasse had been resolved.

The outcome is a compromise that saves everyone's face, leaving President and Congress alike with their options open before the battle proper starts over the route to a balanced budget by 2002.

The Republicans have won their basic point, of committing Mr Clinton to a seven-year time frame, on the basis of figures provided by the respected and neutral Congressional budget office. However Mr Clinton has delivered on his pledge to protect vital social programmes by inserting wording into the deal that there will be "adequate funding" for the Medicare and Medicaid health schemes, pensions and veterans.

The outcome was "a satisfactory conclusion to a tense situation", Bob Dole, the Senate Majority leader, said. Speaker Newt Gingrich hailed the deal as "among the greatest moments in recent American history". Most relevantly, the President "fully supports the agreement and will sign it," Tom Daschle, leader of the Democratic minority, declared on the Senate floor as the compromise was announced.

Initially the stand-off had been overwhelming blamed by the public on the Republicans in Congress. But in the last 48 hours the tide has been turning, while Democratic defections on Capitol Hill raised the spectre of a humiliating override of a presidential veto.

Meanwhile, Mr Dole pulled off a narrow victory in a keenly awaited straw preference poll of Florida Republicans which reinforces his position as front-runner to win the party's nomination to challenge Mr Clinton next year.

Mr Dole got 33 per cent of votes cast by 3,400 delegates, ahead of Senator Phil Gramm of Texas with 26 per cent, and former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander with 23 per cent. The winners of the two such previous polls, Ronald Reagan in 1979 and George Bush in 1987, went on to gain the nomination and then the White House.

"We won and that's what matters," Mr Dole's aides said. More important, the result turns the Republican contest into a three-man race. It may well may force some weaker and poorly financed candidates, such as Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Congressman Bob Dornan of California, to drop out entirely in the next week or so.

As the wrangling in Washington continued, Republicans delivered a fresh show of strength in the once solidly Democratic South when Mike Foster, a millionaire, won a landslide victory to become only the second Republican Governor of Louisiana in 122 years. He defeated his black Democrat opponent, Cleo Fields, by a crushing 64 to 36 per cent.

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 Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent