- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. said yesterday it was too early to talk about vetoes, but stressed that President Bush didn't want Congress to add new spending to the supplemental appropriations bill he submitted last week or to the $2.1 trillion budget submitted last month.
Speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Daniels said the top priority of the government is fighting the war on terrorism, and that domestic needs have to be placed in that context.
"The president's been very clear, whether it's this supplemental or the 13 bills to follow, that he's willing to work very practically and in a compromise mode with Congress about the composition of spending, as long as his top priorities are respected, but he is not going to let spending get out of control," Mr. Daniels said. "We think we've asked for all the spending that our fiscal health and our long-term economic health will sustain at this point."
Mr. Bush last week submitted a $27 billion supplemental appropriations bill that covered defense spending, new State Department expenses related to pursuing terrorists, and money to rebuild New York City. Mr. Daniels said that bill will be the first test to see if Congress tries to add more spending than the president is willing to accept on the domestic side, or if lawmakers respect his emphasis on spending increases primarily for defense.
"Even though September is barely a semester behind us, already you can feel the return of business as usual. I'm sorry that our memories are so short, but I think the president will probably have to remind the process at various times this year what comes first, where the resources are going to have to go," he said.
The president's budget proposal includes large increases for defense, while limiting domestic spending to an extra 2 percent.
Mr. Daniels said he hoped this year's process would go as well as last year's, when all 13 regular appropriations bills were approved at about the levels the administration wanted.
Spokesmen for leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees say they will work to complete the process in a timely manner, and they are committed to providing money for the war on terrorism. But they say Congress will assert its priorities on domestic spending.
"Mitch Daniels and the White House are one branch of a three-branch government, and while they may not like it, Congress has a responsibility to do its equal part of the appropriations process," said David Sirota, spokesman for Democrats on the House committee. "If Mitch Daniels continues to try to dictate unilaterally to Congress what it should or should not do on spending, it will once again not be met very welcomingly."
John Scofield, a spokesman for House committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican, said a consensus to increase funding already has been reached in some areas of domestic spending including pay parity between civilians and Defense Department employees and restoring funding for the Army Corps of Engineers.
"It's no secret that we support the president's defense number, but there are some holes in the domestic side of the budget," Mr. Scofield said.
In the Democrat-controlled Senate, lawmakers also hope to finish the process in a timely manner, said a spokesman for committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat.
"Senator Byrd has the goal of 13 individual bills passed on time, get them done to the president to sign before the end of the fiscal year, but he hasn't talked about [spending] levels," said Tom Gavin, Mr. Byrd's spokesman.


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