- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2001


The Bush administration unveiled its fiscal 2002 budget Monday, three days after the Senate adopted a budget resolution that blew a hole in the presidents reasonable spending proposals. Unlike the House, which passed a budget resolution a week earlier conforming to Mr. Bushs spending guidelines, the Senate has officially begun the bipartisan congressional spending binge for 2002. The president had better check to make sure his veto pen is full of ink, because all indications are that he will need to use it.
The Blue Chip Economic Indicators, a consensus forecast of about 50 top economists, has projected a 2.4 percent increase in the consumer price index for 2002. The Senate voted for a 6.8 percent increase in fiscal 2002 discretionary budget authority, which is the funding the federal government is allowed to spend on non-entitlement programs ranging from national park maintenance to Head Start to jet fighters. That rate of spending increase is nearly three times the expected rate of inflation. Mr. Bushs budget would increase discretionary budget authority by 4.1 percent, reflecting an inflation-adjusted increase in spending that should be more than adequate.
Last week, with the indispensable assistance of three misguided and, yes, disloyal, Republican moderates Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, James Jeffords of Vermont and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, none of whom faces re-election next year the Senate voted to reduce Mr. Bushs 10-year tax-reduction proposal by $448 billion, pledging half that amount to increase spending on education and the other half to debt reduction. While Congress is surely capable of finding ways to pour that kind of windfall spending down a rat hole, the likelihood that the remaining funds will ever be used for debt reduction is probably close to zero.
Indeed, the Senates budget resolution on spending was merely its first step. If the recent past is any guide, the appropriators will consider the spending targets as floors, not ceilings. Then there will be the obligatory "emergency spending" bills and other supplemental appropriations. By all indications, the Senate intends to continue the spending orgies that have preoccupied Congress since the 1997 balanced-budget agreement. Even if Congress spending bills were in line with Mr. Bushs targets, discretionary budget authority for fiscal 2002 would still exceed the 2002 spending cap by $108 billion, or 20 percent. The Senates budget resolution would add another $17 billion to this level, confirming the need for Mr. Bush to emphatically warn Congress that he stands ready to veto appropriations that continue the spending follies of recent years.

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