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Clinton defends budget as more fair to citizens


WASHINGTON -- President Clinton said yesterday that his plan to balance the federal budget treats Americans more fairly than legislation moving through the Republican-controlled Congress.

"The difference between my plan and the congressional plans is the difference between necessary cuts and unacceptable pain," Mr. Clinton said in his weekly radio address. "Unlike other plans, my plan protects the people in our country who have so much to give and who have given so much."

The president rewrote his fiscal 1996 budget, proposing in a nationally televised address on Tuesday that the government cut $1.1 trillion in spending to balance the budget over 10 years. Republican-driven budget proposals approved by the House and Senate are aimed at balancing the budget in seven years.

"We could do it in seven years, as some [members] of Congress want," Mr. Clinton said. "But there's no reason to inflict the pain that would cause, or to run the risk of a recession."

Sen. Spencer Abraham of Michigan, who delivered the Republican response to Mr. Clinton's address, said the president's renewed interest in balancing the budget has vindicated the congressional budget initiatives.

Mr. Clinton's remarks on Tuesday night "confirmed that Republicans were right in saying that you can balance the budget and cut taxes at the same time in order to help working families and strengthen the economy," said Mr. Abraham, a member of the Senate Budget Committee.

Mr. Abraham also noted that an analysis last week by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that Mr. Clinton's plan is based on overly optimistic projections and would not balance the budget in a decade.

"It looks like he will have to reduce more spending to end the red ink," Mr. Abraham said.

Mr. Clinton, speaking from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he is attending a meeting of leaders from the seven wealthiest democracies, sought to highlight some of the differences between his budget proposal and those of the congressional Republicans.

Deeper cuts to Medicare and Medicaid can be averted, he said, through "genuine reform," which he described as home care instead of expensive institutional stays for the elderly, mammograms for early detection of breast cancer, and "cracking down on fraud and abuse."

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