- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. resigned yesterday to return to his home state of Indiana and prepare for an expected run for governor next year.”He has served us well,” President Bush told reporters in the Oval Office. “He has been a really good watchdog of the taxpayers’ money.”Democrats disagreed.”Daniels has presided over an era which has seen a projected $5.6 trillion [surplus] in 2001 turn into a $2.2 trillion projected deficit today,” said David Sirota, a spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee.”In short, Mitch Daniels is the clown that turned our fiscal house upside down,” he added. “Let us pray that the era of deficit creation and fiscal destruction are over.”But Mr. Bush insisted his administration is not to blame for burgeoning federal deficits.”We’ve got a deficit because we went through a recession,” he told members of the Tax Relief Coalition. “Secondly, we’ve got a deficit because we’re at war.”So our expenditures went up,” he added. “And revenues went down. That’s the ingredients for what they call a deficit.”Mr. Bush argued that deficits would decrease if Congress would enact his $550 billion tax-cut proposal because that would stimulate economic growth. For the second consecutive day, he urged the public to pressure lawmakers into passing the largest possible tax cut.”You all can make a difference in this debate,” he said at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “People who are listening across the country can make a difference.”That’s why they’ve got e-mails or telephones, or in some cases, buses,” he added. “People on the Hill are responsive to the voice of their fellow citizens.”White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Mr. Daniels will stay on the job for 30 days to help shepherd the tax-cut plan through Congress.”The House and the Senate are both moving this week on the economic plan, and I anticipate it very well may be done, thanks to the help of Mitch Daniels,” he said.Mr. Daniels becomes the fifth member of the president’s economic team to depart the administration since December. He follows former Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill, economic advisers Glenn Hubbard and Lawrence Lindsey, and Securities and Exchange Commissioner Harvey L. Pitt.But the exodus has been small compared with those in other administrations.”When Secretary O’Neill left the administration, you’d have to go back to the early 1900s to find an administration that has been that stable,” Mr. Fleischer said. “We’re looking at how long it’s been since two Cabinet-level officials have left. So what you see is remarkable stability in the administration.”Mr. Daniels informed the president of his resignation early yesterday morning.”Mitch told me that he wants to go back home to the state of Indiana and perhaps pursue a run for political office,” Mr. Bush said. “I said, ‘Mitch, we’re going to miss you a lot in this administration.’ “He added: “On the other hand, this administration’s loss is the gain of the people of Indiana.”Mr. Daniels tested the political waters last month in Indiana by attending Republican Party dinners in Kokomo, Logansport and Nashville. He wants to replace Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon, a second-term Democrat barred by state law from seeking a third term.As for a new White House budget director, Mr. Fleischer said: “It’s too soon to speculate about any successors to Director Daniels.”But Mr. Bush made clear that the replacement must continue the administration’s opposition to excessive congressional spending.”Anybody that works for me will place a premium on fiscal discipline,” he said. “Appropriators love to appropriate here in Washington. Given a pot of money, they will appropriate it, unless there’s an administration willing to fight on behalf of the taxpayers.”

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