- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

President Bush yesterday said he will offer "new ideas" next year to Congress on ways to stimulate the economy, including broad new tax cuts, as lawmakers put off decisions on spending until Republicans take over the House and Senate in January.

"One way that we have addressed this problem up to now is to insist that Congress allow people to keep more of their own money," the president said after meeting with his Cabinet.

"It seemed to have worked well during the first three quarters of this year. When the new Congress comes back, we will have some ideas to discuss with them," Mr. Bush said.

The Bush administration is considering a range of potential tax cuts for individuals and businesses to boost the flagging economy, including accelerating future reductions in income-tax rates that were part of last year's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut, and an increase in tax deductions businesses can take for new investments.

An administration official said the president may announce new proposals during his State of the Union address in January, shortly after Congress convenes.

Mr. Bush told reporters at the White House yesterday that he agreed with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's view that the economy "is not as strong as it should be."

"He uses the word 'soft spot.' I use the words 'bumping along.' Both of us understand that our economy is not nearly as strong as it's going to be," Mr. Bush said.

"I sent a signal to Congress that I believe that we need to have further discussions how to best stimulate the economy. And I'm very serious about that."

Meanwhile, the House voted yesterday to delay debate on a nearly dozen federal spending bills until the new Congress convenes.

Congress has cleared just two of the 13 spending bills needed to fund the federal government in the 2003 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1. It has since avoided a federal shutdown by passing a series of stopgap measures extending 2002 spending levels the latest of which expires Nov. 22.

The House voted 270-143, mostly along party lines, to clear another stopgap that will run until Jan. 11. Lawmakers will now likely try to deal with the remaining spending bills all at once in an "omnibus" package when they return.

"This is not the best way to fund the government. I think everyone would agree on that," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, a Florida Republican. "But circumstances today require it."

Democrats attacked the decision, saying freezing funding levels for at least two more months will hurt government agencies from the Securities and Exchange Commission to the FBI that had been slated for big budget boosts in 2003.

"This is a pitiful performance by a pitiful Congress walking away from its major responsibility," said Rep. David R. Obey of Wisconsin, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, which oversees the annual federal spending process.

But Senate Democrats who still temporarily control that chamber during Congress' current postelection session are not expected to try to block the effort, which is backed by Senate Republicans and the White House.

"I think most Democrats will oppose it, but it will pass," said a Senate Democratic aide.

Mr. Bush, backed by House Republican leaders, has demanded that lawmakers hold down the spending they control to no more than $759 billion, blaming overspending by Democrats for the recent return of federal budget deficits.

Democrats blame Mr. Bush's tax cuts last year for the mounting U.S. budget woes. They, and some Republicans in both the House and Senate, had argued at least $9 billion more was needed to avoid shortchanging education and health care programs.

The measure extends a landmark 1996 welfare law until Jan. 11, buying lawmakers more time to decide what the next phase of welfare reform should look like.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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