- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

President Bush yesterday reminded Congress of his veto power publicly for the first time this year as Republicans predicted the Democrat-led Senate is headed for a "wild, wild West" of spending.
"I've got a tool and that's called a veto," Mr. Bush said at the White House. "I don't think that's going to be necessary, because I believe in this difficult time for America there's a common spirit on Capitol Hill that we can promote and use for the benefit of the people."
Mr. Bush has brandished the veto once before and won last fall, when congressional Democrats backed down from their effort to add $15 billion for homeland security to a $40 billion package of emergency relief for the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Republican-led House has approved a $2.1 trillion budget for fiscal 2003 that largely tracks the president's spending priorities, including a huge boost for the military. But the Senate has yet to approve a budget, and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said the lack of a spending blueprint will create "chaos" during the appropriations season this fall.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said the Senate will approve a budget but he vowed it will not include the administration's proposal for permanent income-tax cuts.
"We will never bring up the permanent tax cut the president has advocated," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. "It is bad policy, it is wrong, and it compounds the budget disaster that our country currently faces."
Mr. Bush on Monday called on Congress to extend the income-tax cuts enacted last year beyond their scheduled expiration in 2011. The Republican-led House is set to vote on the proposal tomorrow.
Mr. Daschle has opposed the president's proposal ever since the administration included the permanent tax cuts in its budget for fiscal 2003. But his comments yesterday were his most determined yet to shut off any consideration of the plan.
Twelve Senate Democrats voted for the tax cuts last year, but Mr. Daschle said "a large number" of that group would vote against making the tax relief permanent if he allowed them to vote on it.
Mr. Bush urged lawmakers to put aside partisanship for the good of the country as Congress considers a wartime budget.
"We don't have to get into needless partisan screeching over the budget," Mr. Bush said. "Sound budgeting is going to determine whether or not people are going to be able to find work."
The Senate technically was supposed to approve a budget for fiscal 2003 by Monday a deadline it often misses. Mr. Lott, Mississippi Republican, said divisions among Senate Democrats make it likely that the chamber won't agree on a budget resolution for the first time in 27 years.
"Surely the Congress should have a budget so we could at least weigh how much is coming in and how much is going out and for what," Mr. Lott said. Without a spending plan, "It would just be the wild, wild West when we get these separate appropriations bills to the floor."
Mr. Daschle, who told Republican leaders at a White House meeting last week that he was unsure whether the Senate would pass a budget, yesterday said he still intends to approve a spending plan.
"We're going to have a budget resolution," he said. "I have to make some decisions with regard to what comes next. But if [Republicans] hadn't have obstructed the energy bill as long as they have there's a chance we'd be on budget today."
Mr. Bush said congressional priorities ought to be clear.
"What's best for the country is winning the war on terror, buttoning up the homeland, and keeping this economy growing so people can find work," he said. "This doesn't have to be a time for harsh partisanship, where people are trying to advance their own political agendas as opposed to focusing on what's best for the country."
The president said Congress should limit increases in domestic spending to 2 percent, which he called "a pretty darned healthy increase in times of war."

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