Budget talks intensify as Congress keeps agencies open again

WASHINGTON (AP) — White House and congressional budget bargainers intensified their talks on school spending and other issues Monday as Congress voted to keep the government open for two more days amid indications that a deal was near.
After more than five hours of negotiating between White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and GOP leaders, House Speaker Newt Gingrich said a deal could be completed by nighttime and a package could be on the House floor by Wednesday.
Twelve days into fiscal 1999, spending bills controlling about $500 billion worth of spending — nearly one-third of the federal budget — were still in play.
The Clinton administration has been demanding about $3 billion more, including $1.1 billion for hiring elementary school teachers plus money for dealing with climate change, aid to Russia and other proposals.
Republicans had been offering nearly $2.5 billion, but with some different priorities. The GOP proposed $1.1 billion that states could use to hire teachers or take any steps they want to reduce class size. They were offering half the $46 million Clinton wanted for food safety and none of the $100 million he wanted for toxic waste cleanups.
The two sides were also divided over scores of policy issues ranging from the use of statistical sampling for the 2000 census to whether taxpayer-financed needles should be distributed to drug users in the District of Columbia.