- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2002

The Democrat-led Senate is expected to kill an economic recovery bill today, leaving $77 billion from President Bush's budget unspent and vulnerable to lawmakers' wishes.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said he will shelve his bill to help the economy if, as expected, it does not receive the required 60 votes to move forward. Republicans argue that his $69 billion plan is heavy on spending and would not create jobs.
"With great regret, I will pull the bill," Mr. Daschle said, arguing that Republicans were "trying to score political points" by rejecting his plan.
But the South Dakota Democrat also said he will not allow a vote on a bipartisan House-passed bill supported by the White House because it, too, would not garner 60 votes. That plan would pump $89 billion into the economy this year by accelerating income-tax cuts, extending unemployment benefits and providing tax breaks for small businesses.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said Mr. Daschle was "hiding behind procedure."
"The Daschle Democrats, in a cynical effort to score political points against this president, have chosen to fire a direct shot into a limping economy by killing" the proposals, the Mississippi Republican said.
The stalemate comes as Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill told lawmakers yesterday the economy is improving and could grow as much as 3.5 percent this year if Congress approves a bill to encourage growth.
"We see more and more signs every day indicating that the seeds for a recovery are there, and only need nourishing to speed the process of putting Americans back to work," Mr. O'Neill said.
Mr. Bush included $77 billion for economic recovery in the fiscal 2003 budget he introduced Monday. If Congress does not approve a bill, some lawmakers fear their colleagues will find other ways to spend some or all of that money.
Mr. Daschle, for example, said the administration eliminated money from the budget to relocate families in Pierre, S.D., who live near a flood-prone dam.
"Now is that pork? I don't think so," Mr. Daschle said. "That's just one example. There are scores of those examples, and I think we ought to have a good debate about them."
Democrats also are angling for more than the $190 billion proposed by the White House for a prescription drug benefit under Medicare. And lawmakers of both parties are objecting to the administration's plan to trim $9 billion from the federal transportation budget, a traditional source of pork projects.
Sen. Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican and assistant minority leader, said Democrats are trying to divert this part of the administration's budget into their pet priorities.
"I don't want it to be turned into a spending program," Mr. Nickles said. "The Democrats aren't really interested in stimulus, they're really interested in spending. I don't want them to say, 'Oh, we defeated the stimulus package, now let's go ahead and turn it into a spending free-for-all.'"
Some conservative House Republicans say Congress should approve a balanced budget if lawmakers cannot agree on an economic recovery plan. The administration's budget calls for a deficit of $80 billion. Without the $77 billion economic recovery proposal, conservatives say, lawmakers would only need to trim another $3 billion or so to balance the budget.
House Majority Leader Dick Armey said if Congress fails to approve a bill to help the economy, "the House will have even more need to stop legislation that grows the government."
"We can't afford to be a government that grows when the economy is not growing," Mr. Armey told reporters.


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