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The BBC's Rob Watson reports on "ill-feeling" between President and Congress
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Thursday, 18 November, 1999, 22:48 GMT
House passes US budget
President Clinton and family President Clinton agreed to the deal while in Turkey

The US House of Representatives has ended months of wrangling with President Bill Clinton, passing a $385bn spending bill that will complete the federal budget for the fiscal year 2000.

The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote, before going on to the White House for President Clinton's approval.

The Administration and Congress only reached a deal on the budget late on Wednesday.

It will mean across-the-board cuts of 0.38% in government spending.

Republicans were seeking a reduction of 1% in the budget.

Two weeks ago, President Clinton vetoed the Republicans' proposed 1% cut as "mindless and excessive".

Republicans wanted to use America's expected budget surpluses to reduce the tax burden on the average voter by 1% - the biggest tax relief in the US since 1981 - and give concessions to a number of businesses.

But Democrats argued that the plan would only benefit the rich.

Victory

"This budget is a victory, and a hard-won victory, for the American people," President Clinton told reporters in Istanbul, where he is attending the European security summit.



"Both sides can be proud of this accord," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said at the close of 10 days of negotiations on a bill covering everything from education to foreign aid.

Dennis Hastert Hastert: "Both sides can be proud"
President Clinton said the agreement met his goals of protecting the environment, reducing school class sizes by recruiting more teachers and boosting community policing.

The final obstacle - the White House's insistence that federal agencies get some flexibility in implementing cuts necessitated by the budget - was only overcome late on Wednesday.

The new fiscal year began on 1 October, since when federal government has been financed with a series of emergency spending bills.

Something for both sides

Both Democrats are Republicans will be able to claim victories from the agreement.

Republicans say they achieved their goal of balancing the budget while assuring that the Social Security trust fund remained untouched.

Democrats can boast of the prospect of 50,000 more police officers on the street, more teachers in classrooms, and funds to start repaying overdue US dues to the United Nations.

UN deal

However, the budget deal is not a final resolution to the country's UN debts.

Many at the UN are impatient with delays in US payments Many at the UN are impatient with delays in US payments
"I would love to hand you a $926m cheque at once," US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke told UN delegates at a reception, adding that the laws Congress was setting did not make this possible.

Of the $926m budgeted over the next three years in the new bill, only $712m is expected to go towards the $1.52bn debt Washington owes to the world body.

The remainder will go to UN agencies the United States supports.

But in a compromise condemned by House Democrats, the US will not fund UN agencies which promote abortion.

UN ambassadors remained unimpressed by the US offer.

The shortfall, Canada's ambassador Robert Fowler said, violated a "fundamental contractual obligation" for UN members to pay their bills "in full, on time and without conditions."

Only some $100m of the appropriation would be paid without conditions, meaning that the US will not lose its vote at the UN General Assembly next year, although it could face the same problem in 2001.

But before the bulk of the remainder is paid, Congress is demanding that UN members need to agree to conditions such as lowering the US dues from 25% to 22% of the UN budget, and not raising that budget.

Some European Union members are considering reviving a plan first presented in 1996 that would reduce US peacekeeping costs but not regular dues.

But so far no EU member has considered cutting basic US payments to 22%.

"It's a negotiating point, not a final one for us," said one senior European ambassador.

EU countries collectively contribute 36% of the UN's budget
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See also:
15 Oct 99 |  Americas
Clinton's three little words
14 Oct 99 |  Americas
Clinton slams Senate 'isolationism'
18 Oct 99 |  Americas
Clinton vetoes foreign aid bill
15 Nov 99 |  Americas
US deal on outstanding UN dues
15 Nov 99 |  Americas
US to settle UN debt
16 Nov 99 |  Americas
Annan welcomes UN debt deal

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