- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2002

House Republican leaders today will present a 2003 budget that includes a small deficit, which they say is the result of increased spending after the terrorist attacks.
"If it was not for September 11, we would have a balanced budget," House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle said at a news conference to promote the increased spending on military and homeland defense that was part of President Bush's proposed $2.1 trillion budget as well as the House plan.
Still, Mr. Nussle and other Republican leaders called it a short-term deficit and said a strong economic recovery, combined with fiscal discipline in Congress, could produce a balanced budget soon.
"We are committed to balancing a surplus budget," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Texas Republican. "As we work our way through [defense spending needs] and as we try to reduce spending in other areas, we will drive ourselves the best we can to a balanced budget."
The budget resolution sets outlines for how much money is available for functions of the federal government. The full House is scheduled to debate and vote on the resolution next week, and the Senate plans to take up its resolution after the Easter recess.
Mr. Nussle, Iowa Republican, said his budget will be based on the revenue and spending projections from the Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget, rather than Congressional Budget Office numbers. OMB estimates that the government will have about $20 billion more to spend than the CBO projects.
According to the most recent CBO figures, the federal government would run a surplus of about $5 billion in fiscal 2003 if Congress and the president don't add any spending or offset any new spending with cuts elsewhere.
But since the CBO projections, Mr. Bush has signed an economic-recovery package that will cost $43 billion. Also, the president has asked, and Republicans say they will deliver, big increases in defense and homeland security spending.
But Democrats have charged that Republicans will have to raid the Medicare and Social Security surpluses to accomplish those goals. Democrats also blame last year's tax cut for leaving Congress unable to handle the new spending needs.
"We're going to oppose the Republican budget due to the glaring, misplaced priorities for seniors and their families," said House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat.
Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, the ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, said his party supports "every penny" of the increased spending on defense and homeland security.
"The difference between us is not national security, it's not homeland security, it's Social Security," he said. "After vowing never, ever to borrow again from the Social Security surplus, after offering up all manner of lockboxes over the last three years, their budget, the one they'll unveil tomorrow, brazenly invades the Social Security surplus to the tune of $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years."


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