White House and congressional Republican aides swapped phone calls and faxes yesterday in search of a final budget agreement but remained at odds over the GOP's insistence on linking the abortion issue to payment of back dues to the United Nations.
Republicans insisted that most of the outstanding differences over the five remaining spending bills have been resolved and that final action is likely to occur when Congress returns early this week from a Veterans Day holiday break. "For the most part we're fine," said a Republican aide with the House Appropriations Committee.
However, a senior White House official said there has been no further progress on the U.N. dues issue, which is threatening to hold up final action. And a White House budget office spokeswoman cautioned that the administration continues to have problems with a number of provisions in the Interior Department spending bill, including oil and gas royalties, hard-rock mining and the dumping of mining waste, which the White House considers harmful to the environment.
"We are reviewing the bill language . . . and there are some things we are not satisfied with," said Linda Ricci, spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget.
President Clinton and other White House officials have signaled a willingness to agree on some restrictions concerning the degree to which foreign family planning groups may spend money to promote abortion abroad. However, the two sides are having trouble settling on language, and the White House is concerned about alienating some congressional Democrats and women's groups that support abortion rights.
Negotiators also are trying to agree on ways to offset the nearly $6 billion in additional spending they have agreed to in the past two weeks and whether to include a small across-the-board spending cut that Republicans have proposed.