- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

The chairman of the House Budget Committee said yesterday that if the remaining bills in the 2003 budget are not settled by the President's Day break: "It's everyone out of the pool. We're done."
Rep. Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican, said work on last year's budget which has been overdue since Oct. 1 has gone on long enough. He said he'd push to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government at 2002 levels for the rest of the year if the team of House and Senate conferees can't finish the remaining 11 of 13 spending bills for 2003 in the next two weeks.
"It's everyone out of the pool. We're done," Mr. Nussle said. "There are some of us out here who think that we ought to get done with the '03 budget and get on with the work of '04."
Mr. Nussle's idea did not go over well with members of the House Appropriations Committee of either party.
"His comments are unhelpful," said John Scofield, spokesman for House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young, Florida Republican. "He's free to write a continuing resolution as long as we can write the budget resolution."
"Sadly, President Bush would probably love to see a long-term continuing resolution because he would finally get the cuts in education, health care and homeland security he's been desperately seeking to finance his plan to shower tax cuts on his wealthiest campaign donors," said David Sirota, spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee.
The Appropriations and Budget committees have historically clashed over how much to spend each year. Appropriators generally like to spend as much as they can, while the budget writers want the committee to adhere to their guidelines.
Despite the conflict, the two committees have to work together, and Mr. Nussle expects the conferees to meet his deadline.
"We have confidence that Chairman Young and the appropriators will get this done and it will never come to this," said Sean M. Spicer, spokesman for Mr. Nussle.
In a briefing with reporters yesterday, Mr. Nussle said he'll get a better idea of how the budget process will go this year when President Bush delivers his budget to Congress Monday morning. But in general, he'd like to keep discretionary spending as low as possible.
"Non-homeland security and non-defense spending must be restrained," Mr. Nussle said. "You have to buy the groceries, but you don't have to remodel the kitchen."
The House succeeded in passing a budget resolution last year, but the Senate's version died amid partisan wrangling.
"I think [Mr. Nussle] is upset that he passes budget after budget and the Senate doesn't live up to their responsibilities," Mr. Spicer said.
Sen. Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican and new chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said yesterday that if his committee can't produce a resolution this year, "then the budget process is dead."
"We have had bipartisan support in years past, and I would hope we will this time," Mr. Nickles said. "Some people say that's optimistic, but that's what I'd like to do."
Mr. Nussle has set an ambitious budget schedule for 2004, especially considering last year's budget is still not finished and the House Budget Committee will not be fully organized until at least Tuesday.
The committee will listen to budget suggestions through February, Mr. Nussle said, and strive to mark up a budget resolution by March 10. He'd like the full house to vote on the resolution by March 17, then send it to a conference committee soon thereafter.
"It's not out of the question that we'll be done with the work with the Senate [conferees] by early April," Mr. Nussle said, adding that he's working closely with Mr. Nickles to avoid a repeat of last year's gridlock on budget resolutions.
"Most of us [on the House side] are frustrated and patient," Mr. Nussle said. "But that patience is going to run very thin."

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