WASHINGTON — Congress should make another try at a balanced-budget compromise before resorting to the piecemeal approach of limited savings and tax cuts being promoted by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, two Senate leaders said Sunday.
"I think we're close enough," said Senate Majority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.), citing what he said was growing support in the Senate for a bipartisan plan to balance the budget over seven years.
Gingrich (R-Ga.) last week said the effort to find common ground with President Clinton on a budget was hopeless, and proposed attaching a "down payment" of up to $100 billion in savings and $29 billion in tax cuts to a bill raising the nation's debt ceiling.
Appearing on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press," Lott said there will have to be some conditions on the debt-ceiling bill, but he said Gingrich's down payment is too small. "I think we need to do more. We can do more."
Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin says the nation faces default if the debt ceiling, now at $4.9 trillion, isn't raised by March 1.
Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, appearing with Lott on the NBC program, pressed that point, saying linking the debt limit to spending and tax cuts was "a big, big mistake. . . . We shouldn't be playing games with something as devastating and destructive as this could be."