- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

The House Budget Committee last night passed a $2.1 trillion spending resolution for fiscal 2003 that would fund President Bush's requests for defense and homeland security, but would include a $46 billion deficit.
The panel passed the measure on a 23-18 party-line vote after a 13-hour session, during which the Republican-led committee rejected a series of Democratic amendments, most calling for more spending.
Besides the defense and security spending increases, the budget conforms closely to the president's plan, proposed in February.
"Our wartime budget makes America safer, the economy stronger and secures the future for every American family," said Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican and the measure's chief author.
If not for the $43 billion unemployment benefits and job-creation package that Mr. Bush signed over the weekend, Mr. Nussle said, the budget would be in balance.
The budget resolution isn't binding on appropriators, but it sets a broad outline for how much money is available for each function of government. The resolution is scheduled for a floor vote next week.
Democrats say the budget, which includes five-year projections rather than the 10-year forecasts used in recent years, hides costs in the later years when the president has asked that last year's tax cut be made permanent. That one step would lower projected revenues by $250 billion.
In addition, making other expiring tax-cut provisions permanent will cost $200 billion, and reforming the alternative minimum tax will cost another $450 billion.
"There is nothing in this budget for things we know are going to come the very first week we come back from [Easter] recess," said Rep. Jim McDermott, Washington Democrat. "What we've got here is an Enron budget, where everything is off budget."
Democrats also chided Republicans for basing their budget on economic and spending numbers provided by the Bush administration's Office of Management and Budget, rather than the Congressional Budget Office.
Mr. Nussle said that CBO numbers for later years are often inaccurate because of how that agency calculates future spending. "It's not just a matter of ease, it's a matter of what's accurate," he said.
Democrats attacked the budget proposal from both sides. They argued that the plan didn't spend enough on education, transportation, housing, the environment and health care, but also chastised Republicans for spending too much overall, yet did not offer amendments to cut any programs.
"You've converted on-budget surpluses into on-budget deficits, and what we've seen is conversion of cyclical surpluses into cyclical deficits," said Rep. John M. Spratt Jr., South Carolina Democrat.
Democrats blamed the deficit on last year's tax cut, with Mr. McDermott saying it "left no room for error" when the economy took a downturn.
This year's Republican proposal budgets $28 billion for new tax cuts over the next five years. It would produce deficits of $66 billion in 2002 and $46 billion in 2003, and surpluses of $8 billion in 2004, $67 billion in 2005, $89 billion in 2006 and $113 billion in 2007. All or part of the Social Security trust fund would be accounted for in each of those years.
The House Republicans' budget rejects Mr. Bush's request to charge some veterans $1,500 deductibles for health care; sets aside $350 billion over the next decade to overhaul Medicare and create a prescription-drug program $160 billion more than the president seeks; and adds $4.4 billion to the president's proposed allocation to states for highway building.


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