Democrats at the budget summit are responding to President Bush's easing of his no-tax stance by discussing possible cuts in some of their favorite benefit programs, including Social Security.
The closed-door talks between leading lawmakers and White House officials resumed Thursday, a day after the bargainers accelerated their pace and plunged into specific suggestions for saving billions of dollars next year. No agreements were reached, but participants said real work was finally being done."Whatever deadlock there was in our negotiations has disappeared," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.
The talks began in mid-May. They had inched along until Bush's declaration on Monday that "tax revenue increases" - along with spending cuts - had to be a part of any deficit-reduction package.
On Wednesday, Democrats presented a menu of cuts in a wide range of benefit programs that one official said would save $5.7 billion and another said could produce $10 billion in savings. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
Democrats have long been protective of benefit programs - called entitlements - because the poor and elderly who are covered tend to support their party.
"Today, we Democrats are raising the whole question of entitlement programs," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman James Sasser, D-Tenn. "That's a very sensitive area for Democrats."
Overall, negotiators are seeking $45 billion to $60 billion in savings for fiscal 1991, which starts Oct. 1.