The Budget Logjam

DEMOCRATIC leaders in Congress say President Clinton's deficit-reduction plan will be passed by the end of this week. But a great deal of persuading and bargaining must be done between now and then to pull this off.

Democratic leaders and the White House have until Aug. 7 to find an uncommitted Senate Democrat to vote yes - thereby canceling the presumed negative vote from Sen. David Boren (D) of Oklahoma, who says he cannot, "in conscience," support the president's plan - even though it was modified to placate oil-state Democrats.

At this point the proposed legislation is as much symbol as substance, aimed at producing some $496 billion over five years from spending cuts and tax hikes. The gasoline tax of 4.3 cents per gallon that Mr. Boren can't abide is a time-honored source of government funds.

Although imperfect, the present compromise should be approved. The status quo is not tolerable. We hope the Democrats succeed in convincing at least one other recalcitrant party member to vote for it.

The president, and the rest of us, certainly want solid economic growth in the next several years. Without it, and without further deficit reduction, Mr. Clinton may find himself, like George Bush, to be a one-term president.

But there are some upbeat signs in Washington and the White House. A number of polls show a slight improvement in Clinton's public approval ratings.

One day last week the president talked to a number of visiting citizens in the White House rose garden. He talked about "reducing the deficit, cutting spending, reversing trickle-down economics, and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share of our tax burden, increasing incentives to business to create new jobs, helping the working poor to stay out of welfare and stay in the work force, and renewing the skills and productivity of our workers, our students, and our children."

He ended with thorough explanation of his economic plan. Sounds like the Clinton of the campaign - a presidential style we could use more of.

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