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Congress and the White House have yet to finish negotiating and haggling over the U.S. federal budget for 1996, but the calendar and the law say that they ought to start thinking about 1997.

On February 5, President Bill Clinton issued a preliminary budget plan for 1997 that reflected his fiscal priorities as they were last stated in January, before budget talks with congressional Republicans broke down. Required by law to propose a spending plan by the first Monday in February, Clinton delivered to Congress what he termed a “thematic document,” one that gives a minimally detailed outline of how the federal government should spend the taxpayers' money in 1997.