Clinton presses GOP to compromise on stimulus bill

CORAOPOLIS, PA. — CORAOPOLIS, Pa. -- Organizing an airport rally and taking t the airwaves, President Clinton tried yesterday to persuade Senate Republicans to accept a compromise on his filibuster-stalled economic stimulus bill.

With another attempt scheduled for Tuesday on the Senate floor to try to break the 43-member Republican filibuster, Mr. Clinton targeted Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Alfonse M. D'Amato of New York. They are among a handful of pragmatic Republicans whose defection would give Democrats, who have a winning majority on the measure, the 60 votes needed to allow a vote on the emergency spending bill.


Mr. Clinton mentioned Mr. D'Amato in a television interview yesterday. The president also used his five-minute nationwide radio broadcast yesterday to promote the jobs bill.

On Friday, the president lowered the price of his short-term package, from $16.3 billion to $12.2 billion, while adding a $200 million police-rehiring proposal to make the plan politically difficult for Republicans to oppose.


Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, the minority leader, has rejected the compromise, saying the bill would raise the federal budget deficit and demand corresponding budget cuts in other areas.

Mr. Clinton argued yesterday that deficit increases would be paid for by proposed deficit cuts in later years of his five-year economic plan.

Both houses of Congress have passed a budget resolution approving the outlines of the longer-term plan.

The president also said that the bill's new money is within domestic spending caps approved by Congress.

"I believe that Senator Specter would like to vote for the bill," Mr. Clinton told a radio interviewer in Pittsburgh, noting that Mr. Dole has pressed his Republican colleagues to "stay hitched."

Mr. Specter, who is in Africa in connection with Senate committee work, was unavailable for comment. The bill would finance construction projects, summer jobs for youth, expanded Head Start preschool programs, childhood immunizations, extended unemployment benefits and other items.

"If it doesn't work, we'll do something else," Mr. Clinton said at the Pittsburgh airport to a mostly labor-union crowd. "But let's try this. It can work."

The president assured the airport gathering that the stimulus package was a "disciplined, limited, targeted plan" to create jobs.


And he urged "all Americans to take another look at the jobs program," and, if they support it, to "tell your lawmakers how important the bill is."

Mr. Clinton's quick trip to Pittsburgh to try to sell his jobs bill seemed to underscore the pressures on him as he scrambles to lobby on many fronts at once -- a pace that senior administration officials are beginning to worry about.

Privately, some say the president has lost his focus in recent weeks.

That impression was echoed by some of Mr. Clinton's supporters in Pittsburgh.

"My concern is that he's looking weak," said Steve Jordan, a 43-year-old Pittsburgh lawyer.

"I assume he has a plan, but it is not clear to me what it is. I hate to see Dole running the show, but it looks to me like he is in control now."