- The Washington Times - Friday, February 7, 2003

White House Budget Director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. was moved to use a four-letter word after the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee claimed that President Bush's 2001 tax cuts "played a major role" in the return of federal budget deficits.
"Well, sir, your comment moves me to use a four-letter word: bunk," Mr. Daniels said.
Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, began his questioning of Mr. Daniels with the assertion that the 10-year, $1.3 billion tax cut of which only about a third has taken effect is responsible for creating the $158 billion deficit recorded by the Congressional Budget Office for 2002, and the $199 deficit predicted for 2003.
"The tax cuts have played a major role in the return to deficits and burgeoning debt," Mr. Conrad said. "That's undeniable. That's a fact."
Mr. Daniels has testified to both the House and Senate Budget committees that the deficit was created by three unforeseen factors a surprise recession that began in 2000, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the collapse of an overly inflated stock market.
"People ought not be casual about the facts in trying to assign blame for something that really must be blamed on three circumstances that were not within the control of anyone here," Mr. Daniels said. "And as far as I know, no one had a crystal ball so clearly they could see them coming."
The pointed exchange came Wednesday in what has been a weeklong sparring match on Capitol Hill between Bush administration officials defending the president's budget priorities and the Democrats' united and coordinated opposition.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said yesterday that the Democrats will offer an alternative budget that "won't come anywhere near" the deficits in the president's plan around $300 billion in each of the next two years.
"We are just formulating now the alternative," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "But we can say without equivocation that we will not be driving the debt as high as it is, and may not even have one, depending on how the scoring takes place."
Mr. Daschle echoed Mr. Conrad, asserting that the president's 2001 tax cut started the country down the road to deficits, and that Mr. Bush's proposed $690 billion economic-stimulus package would turn the once-predicted $5 trillion 10-year federal surplus into a $2 trillion deficit.
"We've got to be very concerned about the $7 trillion swing that currently exists in the president's budget proposal," Mr. Daschle said. "That's unacceptable, and [the Democrats budget plan] won't come anywhere near that."
Meanwhile, the idea of shutting down the negotiations over 11 spending bills for fiscal year 2003 which began 4.5 months ago is gaining steam.
Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he will offer a continuing resolution to fund the government at 2002 levels until Oct. 1, the rest of the fiscal year, if a deal isn't reached by the end of next week.
Rep. Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee, irritated Republican appropriators when he vowed last week to do what Mr. Stevens now advocates.
One House Appropriations Committee staffer suggested Mr. Nussle whose committee sets budget guidelines, but does not have sway over the final outcome of spending bills was speaking out of turn.
"The chairman's comments last week were meant to be a last resort. This [bill] isn't just a day or two over the deadline," said Sean M. Spicer, spokesman for Mr. Nussle. "He's still hoping it doesn't come to that."
A spokesman for Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee said Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican, is still hopeful that the 11 remaining 2003 spending bills can emerge from conference early next week and be passed before Congress leaves town for the Presidents Day recess.

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