Published: Friday 15 December 1995

The inevitable has happened. Budget wrangles between the Repubtican-led Congress and a steadfast Bill Clinton saw all important US government offices shut down for a week, one of the longest shutdowns ever in US political history. Some 80,000 workers who reported Ior work on the morning of November 14 had to return home and stayed put as acrimordus exchanges amidst intense negotiations to reach a solution marked the tumultous political scenario.

It all began with Clinton veto- ing a temporary finance bill to raise the debt limit, passed earlier by the Congress. He described as "irresponsible", the conditions laid down by the Republicans to keep the government open which included increase in medicare premiums, reduction in education spending and underminIng environment. The Republicans, meanwhile, refused to concede seeking a seven-year programme to balance the budget instead of the 10 years that Clinton wanted. Remarked Newt Gingrich, House Speaker, derisively of Clinton, "Idly sitting down at the White House issuing veto threats is not a very useful step towards governing. The crisis was resolved after Clinton agreed to the Republican plan of a balanced budget but sought protection for some domestic programmes against deep spending cum The US government has been shut down on nine previous occasions since 1981 with both the Congress and the President bent on pushing their own agenda.

The tough stand that Clinton took is seen more as an effort to retain his reputation as a survivor against all odds. Obviously, more at stake is the presidential elections next year. Opinion polls conducted during the standoff favour Clinton's stand and show that the Republican image has taken a beating.

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