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GOP Drives Budget Through

Republicans overpowered Democrats in both houses of Congress Thursday to win approval for their "Budget for the New Millennium," a blueprint designed to showcase support for Social Security, the Pentagon and a new round of tax cuts.

Democrats argued that the GOP-backed tax reductions in the packages would favor the wealthy at the expense of the long-term health of Medicare and Social Security.

Senate passage of the $1.74 trillion spending plan for fiscal 2000 came on a 55-44 vote after two days of debate that centered on priorities for the enormous surpluses that are forecast for the next several years.

Earlier, the House ratified a similar spending plan by a vote of 221-208. All but two House Republicans voted in favor. Only four Democrats supported it.

House speaker, Rep. Dennis Hastert, said the GOP spending plan "saves more for Social Security and Medicare than the president's budget." In addition, he said it "provides for common-sense tax relief in the future. We have the largest surplus in history, which means the taxpayers are being overcharged."

At the White House, President Clinton issued a statement describing the GOP blueprint as a "series of missed opportunities." The tax and spending plan did not "do enough to pay down the debt and strengthen Social Security and Medicare," he added.

Lawmakers will meet next month to iron out minor differences between the House and Senate versions. Congress will then spend the balance of the year working on spending and tax bills to carry out the policies embedded in the plan.