- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2004

House Republicans will propose a fiscal 2005 budget less than what President Bush wants by freezing spending unrelated to defense and security, and providing less of an increase for defense and homeland security, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee said yesterday.

“This is an important year for us to demonstrate the ability to control spending, and that starts with Congress,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa.

Spurred on by House Republicans bent on tightening spending, Mr. Nussle’s 2005 budget resolution — which is expected to come before his committee one week from today — will institute mechanisms to hold down spending, including a one-year ban on lawmaker-specified earmarks, or “pork,” in spending bills.

The House budget will set a goal of cutting the $478 billion 2004 projected deficit in half over four years — “faster and further” than Mr. Bush proposed, Mr. Nussle said.

The Senate is moving in the same direction.

Republicans there said they will follow budget guidelines they passed two years ago and hold 2005 discretionary spending to $814 billion, cutting about $9 billion from Mr. Bush’s $823 billion discretionary-spending request. The Senate proposal would cut the deficit in half in three years, a Senate Republican aide said.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican, presents the budget proposal to his panel today, with a vote likely later in the week.

Mr. Nussle also said he will set aside up to $50 billion in the budget for continuing the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, while the Senate proposal estimates these efforts at $30 billion.

The administration did not request any money for that in its $2.4 trillion budget proposed last month, but administration officials will probably need up to $50 billion, Mr. Nussle said. He is including that money as an extra item in his proposal. The Senate will list the money in a separate reserve fund, aides said.

In his budget, Mr. Bush proposed $823 billion in discretionary spending, or funding for programs not mandated by federal law, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Under the discretionary spending, Mr. Bush proposed increasing defense spending by 7.1 percent and spending on homeland security by 10 percent. He held the rest of discretionary spending to a half-percent increase.

Mr. Nussle’s budget, however, would take away this half-percent increase, thereby freezing nondefense and non-security discretionary spending. And it would cut a half percent from Mr. Bush’s request for defense and homeland security — increasing those by about 6.6 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively.

Mr. Nussle and his aides would not give hard numbers because his budget is still being crafted.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, predicted Congress will end up exceeding Mr. Bush’s defense request. He said the Senate budget proposal will cut $7 billion from Mr. Bush’s defense request, to reach its $814 billion goal, but he plans to bring that back up to Mr. Bush’s defense-request level or higher in his Senate spending bill.

It only takes 51 votes in the Senate to pass a bill that exceeds defense-spending limits, Mr. Stevens noted.

Senate Republicans also will include language ensuring the need for a simple majority in the Senate — as opposed to 60 votes — to extend Mr. Bush’s tax cuts set to expire this year.

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