Unable to forge a compromise with divided Republicans, Democrats early today pushed a budget outline through the House, inching closer to ending the impasse that has left the government without funds since 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

The new plan, which builds on the remains of the bipartisan package the House rejected last week, passed on a 250 to 164 vote following 2 1/2 hours of bitterly partisan debate. It had been approved late last night by House and Senate budget negotiators.

Democrats voted 218 to 28 in favor of the measure; Republicans opposed it 136 to 32.

"We are tonight a government in crisis," said House Budget Committee Chairman Leon E. Panetta (D-Calif.). "It is extremely important that we move forward. . . . The time has come for action."

The Senate is expected to take up the spending plan this afternoon.

The measure would save $500 billion over five years, $40.1 billion in the fiscal year that began last Monday. It is stripped of controversial proposals that helped bring down the last plan and would leave congressional committees with the power to draw up key components.

The House was expected to take up a stopgap omnibus spending bill that would fund the federal government for as long as two weeks. But final congressional approval would not come in time to keep the government from remaining closed today. Because today is a federal holiday, the impact of the continued shutdown would not be widely felt until most government offices reopen Tuesday.

House passage came at the end of a long day in which lawmakers in both parties moved toward common ground on controversial fiscal issues, but were later hindered by internecine strife among House Republicans. In an afternoon closed-door meeting, House Republicans signaled their willingness to raise income taxes on the wealthy in exchange for a cut in capital gains taxes. But by evening, dissension prevented GOP leaders from joining the final talks between House and Senate budget leaders that sent the agreement to the House floor.

Administration officials hinted that President Bush is willing to be more flexible about the Democratic proposals and that the administration might agree to such a tradeoff. {Details on Page A19.}

Bush, who said he vetoed a short-term spending bill to avoid "business as usual," spent yesterday at the Camp David presidential retreat. He has said he would not agree to another stopgap spending measure to allow the government to reopen unless Congress passes a budget resolution that outlines enough savings to reduce the projected fiscal 1991 deficit by $40 billion and save $500 billion over the next five years.

The unity House Republicans found Saturday to uphold the president's veto appeared to dissolve yesterday during a 2 1/2-hour caucus. "Somebody described it as Beirut, and that's pretty close," said Rep. Rod Chandler (R-Wash.). He described his colleagues as "bitter, divided and angry."

"The basic conservative core loves this fight more than a resolution of the problem," said a moderate GOP lawmaker.

The rift left administration officials frustrated and on the sidelines. No administration official attended the caucus, and Senate Democratic leaders refused to join a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) until White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu and Office of Management and Budget Director Richard G. Darman left, an administration official said.

The House Republicans "have no strength without the administration, and the administration doesn't have much strength without them," said one administration official.

House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.), still smarting from the failure of House Republicans to support Bush and the bipartisan budget agreement last week, was barely visible on the House floor yesterday, allowing such GOP firebrands as House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and Reps. Robert S. Walker (Pa.) and Vin Weber (Minn.) to take the lead.

At one point, Gingrich, who led opposition to the bipartisan budget plan, blamed House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) and other Democratic leaders for the government shutdown. "When the Democratic majority fails to override a veto, it has an obligation to respond to that failure by cooperating with the president," he said.

Weeks of frustration and exhaustion spilled out. "Of all the people in this House, of all the people in this country with little claim to cooperating with the president, it is the gentleman from Georgia," Foley thundered to the applause of Democrats.

"We have leaders who have been damaged," Rep. Jerry Lewis (Calif.), the third-ranking House GOP leader, said later.

Under the new Democratic plan, the target for tax increases would be lowered from $133.8 billion to $118.8 billion, but the committees would be asked to come up with $20 billion in savings from any of the programs under their jurisdiction.

The plan would eliminate specific policy recommendations for tax increases and cuts in benefit programs, giving House committees only savings targets.

For instance, specifics of the tax component, which liberal Democrats criticized under the original agreement for hitting the poor harder than the rich, would be determined by the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees.

"I have a lot more faith in the collective wisdom of the Ways and Means Committee than I do in the presidential advisers sitting in a summit meeting," said Rep. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.).

That prospect, though, left some Republicans worried. "Nobody is interested in giving {House Ways and Means Committee Chairman} Dan Rostenkowski {D-Ill.} a $20 billion piece of Silly Putty" that he can mold to suit himself, said Rep. Jack Buechner (R-Mo.).

But Darman did not seemed bothered by that. "That's what we're trying to do: to get the committees to do their work and produce the law," he said on CBS News's "Face the Nation."

"Sadly, this is not a bipartisan agreement," said Rep. Bill Archer (R-Tex.), indicating his opposition to the proposed budget plan.

Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Senate Republicans and the administration had said they wanted the budget process to move forward. "We cannot hold up a package any longer," Schumer said. "If so many of you are not on the train because of turmoil in your caucus, the train must move forward anyway."

House Democrats -- angered last week by many provisions of the budget plan negotiated by administration officials and congressional leaders -- emerged from their closed-door briefing relieved that their concerns had been addressed. "The hot buttons have been fixed," said Schumer.

The chances improved for a tax package that would link a cut in capital gains taxes and an increase in the income tax rate for the wealthiest Americans.

In a show of hands during a closed session, a majority of House Republicans said they would be willing to increase the top income tax rate for the richest from 28 percent to 32 percent, in exchange for a cut in the top effective capital gains tax rate from 28 percent to 20 percent, according to lawmakers.

During budget talks, Democratic negotiators insisted that the price for a capital gains tax cut was a boost in the top income tax rate to at least 33 percent.

"I would rather think the odds now were shifting" on the tax swap, Foley said yesterday. "There seems to be interest on both sides of the aisle."

Meanwhile, administration officials, including Vice President Quayle, suggested they might be looking more favorably than before on trading the income tax boost for cutting capital gains taxes.

While promising flexibility to the committees, House Democratic leaders assured lawmakers in the closed-door session that certain other provisions would not be included in the final legislation implementing the budget plan.

Even administration officials seemed resigned to smaller savings from Medicare. The health care program for the aged had been targeted for $60 billion in savings over five years in the original budget deal, but that triggered an outcry from the elderly, who faced higher out-of-pocket costs.

"There'll be some adjustment in the Medicare provisions, and that will make it easier for it to pass," Darman said.

The Democratic plan envisions saving $42 billion from Medicare, about $30 billion of it from health-care providers. The annual amount that beneficiaries must pay before receiving assistance under voluntary coverage would rise from $75 to $100, rather than to $150 as the budget agreement suggested.

The portion of the program's cost that beneficiaries pay would remain unchanged; the earlier plan would have raised the assessments. The amount of income subject to the 1.45 percent Medicare payroll tax would still rise from $51,300 annually to $73,000.

In addition, lawmakers from the Northeast and Midwest were assured that home heating oil would be exempted from a two-cents-a-gallon petroleum tax, and lawmakers representing industrial states were promised that a new package would drop a two-week delay in the start of unemployment benefits.

Staff writers Tom Kenworthy and Don Phillips contributed to this report.


CLOSED: All 13 Smithsonian Institution museums, the National Gallery of Art, the White House, Library of Congress, Ford's Theatre performances, Washington Monument and national park facilities such as Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Pierce Mill, Fort Washington Park, Harpers Ferry National Park, Arlington House at Arlington National Cemetery, Frederick Douglass Home, picnic areas along George Washington Parkway, Great Falls Park, Wolf Trap Farm Park, Assateague Island National Seashore, Clara Barton House, Fort Hunt Park, Theodore Roosevelt Island and Oxon Hill Farm.

OPEN, WITH LIMITED SERVICES: The Jefferson, Lincoln and Vietnam memorials will be open, but there will be no visitor services. The National Zoo grounds will be open; animal buildings will be closed. Hains Point and parts of East Potomac Park will be closed to vehicles; the golf course, tennis courts and miniature golf will operate. Shenandoah National Park is open; visitor centers and entrance centers are closed. Skyline Drive and camping areas are open. The C&O Canal and towpath are open; Great Falls Tavern is closed.

OPEN: The Capitol, Kennedy Center, Arlington National Cemetery, Iwo Jima Memorial, Columbia Island and Washington Sailing marinas, Fletcher's Boat House, Thompson Boat Center and Goddard Space Flight Center are unaffected. Washington Cathedral and Dumbarton Oaks in the District, Mount Vernon and Monticello in Virginia and Assateague State Park in Maryland are not operated by the federal government. Also unaffected are the Postal Service, Amtrak train service, airline flights and Metro service.