It's not all bad news. The billions-and-rising war tab hands Republican negotiators a ready excuse to chop some of Clinton's low-cost, feel-good initiatives out of this year's budget. And Clinton will miss the headlines too: Without them, his polling advantage on Social Security and Medicare is merely theoretical. The distractions of war could give Republicans the political cover they need to put off the rescue until they can get some credit for it. "As long as Kosovo is in the headlines, they can kill things in committee without paying too much of a political price," says Branegan. For a party still finding its post-impeachment footing, obscurity can have its rewards.
WASHINGTON: The war in Kosovo isn't just spoiling NATO's 50th birthday -- it's giving Republicans fits as they try to reconnect with voters in time for 2000. Congressional Republicans have thrown down their gauntlet -- a fiscal 2000 budget plan headlined by tax cuts worth $778 billion over the next 10 years -- and Clinton has accepted the challenge. The only problem is, no one's listening. "Both sides intended to use this year's budget battle to sharpen their differences for voters going into the presidential election season," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. "Republicans wanted to talk about tax cuts, which they're united on, but instead they're stuck with Kosovo -- and it's thrown them into disarray."