(CNSNews.com) - President Clinton signed a $289 billion defense bill Tuesday, the seventh of 13 spending bills needed for fiscal year 2000, which began October 1st, as Congress continues to search for ways to cut spending before the three-week, stop-gap spending bill now funding the government expires on October 21st.
One plan reportedly under consideration by Republican leaders would be to reduce spending across-the-board by three or four percent, but the White House is reluctant to do so, calling it a "really big, horrible idea."
The GOP has pledged to balance the budget without touching the Social Security Trust Fund surplus, which is projected to run $147 billion in the black for fiscal 2000. The rest of the government is expected to end up with a much smaller surplus of only $14 billion, which leaves little room to stay within spending caps passed into law by Congress in 1997.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) said that he has never seen a more "rigorous spending session."
While the White House disapproves of broad spending cuts to avoid dipping into Social Security to balance the budget, its latest alternative - raising federal excise taxes on cigarettes by 65 cents a pack - has already been rejected by Congress as an unfair tax on the many working Americans who choose to smoke.
"This is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue," said House Republicans and 12 Democrats in a letter to the president opposing the per-pack tax increase.