Jews Among Targets of Clinton Lobbying Blitz on Budget Bill

With President Clinton’s economic plan now before a House-Senate conference committee, the White House has been engaging in a high-energy media blitz, including conference calls with the Jewish and other ethnic press, to sell the package to the American public.

Most Jewish groups support the majority of the proposals in Clinton’s deficit reduction plan, announced in his State of the Union address last February.

But Clinton’s plan only squeaked by in both chambers of Congress, and the president, who promised to focus “like a laser beam” on the economy, needs a victory on this issue as the House-Senate conferees try to hammer out a reconciliation package.

High-level administration officials, including the president, Vice President Al Gore, Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen, White House Counselor David Gergen and National Economic Council Chairman Robert Rubin, have been briefing selected groups of reporters on the Clinton budget package.

The overall message, as expressed by Rubin in a July 22 briefing that was part of an all-day session for New York and New Jersey media, is that the country is at an “economic crossroads,” and there will be “horrendous consequences” if the bill is not adopted.

The House version of the bill is viewed as more liberal than the Senate version.

And one Jewish organization, the American Jewish Congress, has written a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) urging that the conference committee adopt the House version of a number of social programs.

NO SPECIFICS ON REFUGEE FUNDING

AJCongress President Robert Lifton wrote to Moynihan explaining that AJCongress supports the higher funding found in the House bill for the earned income tax credit for the working poor, for childhood hunger relief provisions and for childhood immunization programs.

The American Jewish Committee is also sending letters to House and Senate conferees backing certain social provisions found in the House version of the bill.

In a July 21 conference call with representatives of the Jewish media, Rubin was not specific about which funding levels the president would find acceptable. But he said Clinton was “very sympathetic” to the whole set of social service programs, and sought to maintain adequate funding for them.

He also would not offer specifics on funding for refugee programs, another issue of concern to Jewish groups.

Clinton, for his part, told the New York and New Jersey area reporters last Thursday that both the House and Senate versions “dramatically increase the earned income tax credit.”

Rubin said that the White House was engaging in its media outreach campaign because “our opponents have been more effective in defining” the economic plan in recent months.

While the plan received popular support when it was announced in February, he said, reaction to it has changed since then.

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