- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 21, 2002

The House last night approved President Bush's $2.1 trillion budget, which calls for the largest military buildup in two decades and a return to deficit spending.
"We are at war," said Rep. William M. "Mac" Thornberry, Texas Republican and member of the House Budget Committee. "This is the time to put our money where our mouth is."
The vote last night to pass the bill was 221-209, with lawmakers voting almost entirely along party lines.
In the Senate, meanwhile, Democrats offered their own spending plan for fiscal 2003, which closely follows the administration's requests for the Pentagon and homeland security but would spend more on education and health care than Mr. Bush has proposed.
Democrats would pay for their priorities by eliminating the president's proposal for another $600 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years.
Mr. Bush is proposing a $48 billion increase for the Pentagon, to $379 billion a boost of 13 percent. It includes a 4.1 percent pay raise for U.S. military personnel.
The president also would nearly double spending on homeland security, to $38 billion. Domestic nondefense spending would increase by only 1.3 percent.
Budget resolutions are not binding, and lawmakers often ignore them when they actually appropriate money for various federal programs in the fall. But the budget process gives both parties in this election year an opportunity to highlight their priorities to appeal to voters.
House Republicans cleared their final budget hurdle yesterday when a group of GOP lawmakers reached agreement with Mr. Bush at the White House on $10 billion reserved for the war on terrorism. The members of the Armed Services Committee had threatened to vote against the budget unless they were given more control over how the money is spent; the White House sought to hold that money in a reserve fund until it was needed.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and committee member, said Mr. Bush assured lawmakers that some of the money will be used for weapons procurement instead of operations expenses such as fuel and transportation.
"We received solid assurances on that," Mr. Hunter said. "We've met our concerns."
He said the president also promised to give lawmakers ample time this year to review and amend the administration's spending request for the $10 billion. Defense hawks in Congress are concerned about ammunition shortages and aging military hardware.
House Democrats, who did not offer their own budget proposal, accused the administration of breaking a promise by spending Social Security surpluses for other federal programs.
"We're not keeping our word," said House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat. "This budget puts Social Security last."
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, replied: "The other party has come here not to praise any budget but to bury it. They are demonstrating the height of fiscal irresponsibility, because they offer no budget at all for our country."
Every Democrat except Rep. Ken Lucas of Kentucky voted against the budget proposal, and all but two Republicans Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania voted for the plan.
The House's two independents split their votes, with Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr. of Virginia backing the Republicans and Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont supporting the Democrats.
Four Democrats did not vote: Ronnie Shows of Mississippi, Luis V. Gutierrez and Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, and James A. Traficant Jr. of Ohio. One Republican Vernon J. Ehlers of Michigan also failed to cast a ballot.
The Senate Democrats' budget would spend $112 billion more over the next 10 years on items such as education and transportation. It would also pay down the federal debt in that period by about $500 billion more than Mr. Bush has proposed.
The Senate Budget Committee is expected to approve the Democratic plan today.


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