Still, the budget issue sure to inspire the heaviest cross-party sparring is tax cuts. Clinton proposed $150 billion over 10 years, including $45 billion to reduce the marriage penalty. The GOP has scaled back last year's failed $780 billion tax cut proposal, but still wants a considerably larger cut than Clinton proposed. The Republicans are facing an ugly dilemma: If they offer too large a cut, they look imprudent next to Clinton's anti-debt stance, but if they offer too small a package, they make the trillion-dollar cut favored by GOP presidential front-runner George W. Bush look completely frivolous. Let the horse trading begin.
This lame duck just keeps on quacking. And now that President Clinton has delivered an ambitious budget proposal, the Republican-controlled Congress has to decide how far to put its foot down and how much to risk alienating an electorate about to go to the polls to pick a new commander in chief. It was all there Monday morning Clinton, chart at his back and Magic Marker in hand, announcing a host of Great Society-esque initiatives, including generous spending on education and health benefits for the poor. "Election years are the best time for a president to get his agenda passed," says TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan. "Some of Clinton's most crucial achievements the minimum wage hike and the balanced budget came in 1996. This year the Republicans have two problems: First, they've got this popular president with an ambitious agenda, and they don't want to be a do-nothing Congress; second, a lot of his issues, such as the Patient's Bill of Rights and gun control, are very popular with the public."