- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

Senate Republicans are responding to Democrats' repeated attempts to add billions of dollars in additional spending to the omnibus 2003 appropriations bill by asking how Democrats, who say the government can't afford to cut taxes, believe it can afford so much new spending.

Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, has created a chart that he drags to the Senate floor to outline what the dozens of Democratic amendments would cost. As of yesterday, Mr. Santorum was saying that the 10-year cost of the Democratic demands for additional spending had ballooned to $350 billion more than half the 10-year cost of President Bush's $674 billion tax-cut proposal.

"We made a mistake we made this chart too small," Mr. Santorum said when the hand-scribbled chart made its debut on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon. "My guess is that by the time we are done, we are going to have a line of charts as to how much money we are going to add to the deficit, at a time when we are hearing all this gnashing of teeth about the president's tax plan that is simply too expensive, that it adds too much to the deficit."

Senate Republicans, who at the beginning of January thought they would be long finished by now with passing 11 of the 13 federal spending bills left over from last year, grew increasingly frustrated with the Democrats' amendments which numbered 245 yesterday.

"And they're just getting started," Mr. Santorum said.

Mr. Santorum wondered why Democrats felt the need to add those amendments considering that the spending bills were written when Democrats controlled the Senate last year.

"I've got to repeat: These bills that are on the floor right now were written by the Democratic subcommittee chairmen on [the Senate] Appropriations Committee," Mr. Santorum said yesterday. The bills are nearly identical, though $10 billion leaner after new Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, pared them down to reach the maximum $750 billion level requested by Mr. Bush.

"I just think it raises a lot of questions as to whether there's legitimate policy discussions going on here or whether what we're doing here is playing politics: trying to slow the process down, trying to obstruct," Mr. Santorum said. "Right now, we're getting a slow walk to what should have been a relatively brief and painless process."

Republicans said presidential politics also have become part of the spending process this year.

Yesterday, a bid to delay Bush administration environmental rules, led by Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, failed after Republicans labeled it nothing more than an election ploy.

"You have all these guys running for president, they're taking stances like today from Senator Edwards it's pure political posturing," said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican. "Something that has already been studied for so many years, and he wants to delay it another six months? It's just so obvious."

Mr. Edwards' proposed amendment would have delayed the administration's "New Source Review" rules for six months while the National Academy of Sciences reviewed their effects. The rule relaxes air pollution requirements on power plants, refineries and industrial plants being refurbished or expanded.

He said the administration has refused repeated requests to analyze and report on what effects the rules change would have on health, but Republicans said the data already have been studied for 10 years.

Republicans have approved spending increases for next year in education, drought aid, election reform and Medicare, but have offset those increases with cuts elsewhere. Mr. Stevens said he expects the final tab to be no more than $1 billion higher than the president's request.

Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat and second-ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said Mr. Santorum is "making it up" when he says these amendments would increase the deficit.

"These [spending proposals] are not permanent, these are temporary one-year expenditures," Mr. Conrad said. "It's a one-time shot" that will cost no more than $15 billion this year, he said.

A Senate Republican leadership aide said flatly that Mr. Conrad "has his facts wrong." The aide said when interest, inflation and the increase in the budget "base line" are included, all the Democratic amendments increase the deficit.

Steven Dinan contributed to this report.


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