- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Top congressional Democrats rapped President Bush’s 2005 budget proposal as an “indictment of his distorted priorities” that will shortchange key programs while driving America further into debt.

“The president’s FY2005 budget is a 2,365-page portrait of financial wreckage,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota at a press conference yesterday. “Even in the face of record debt, a jobs crisis and continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the White House has persisted in pushing its failed program of tax cuts first, last and always.”

Among a long list of grievances, Mr. Daschle and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the Bush budget would cut 38 education programs, cut the Clinton-era community-policing program by 80 percent, cut $606 million from the Environmental Protection Agency, and fall short $2.6 billion in funding veterans’ programs.

The Democrats didn’t offer an alternative budget at the meeting.

Mr. Bush on Monday proposed a $2.4 trillion budget for next year that holds most discretionary spending to a half-percent increase and terminates 65 federal programs in an effort to trim the federal deficit from $521 billion to $364 billion.

“The budget … is an indictment of his distorted priorities,” said Mrs. Pelosi, adding that private health care companies stand to get billions of dollars to deliver the new Medicare prescription-drug benefit, while Mr. Bush’s budget would eliminate some doctor-training programs and freeze funding for nurses’ training.

Mr. Daschle and Mrs. Pelosi said the president has asked Congress to make his tax cuts permanent, but then failed to factor the $1 trillion cost of that into his budget. The Bush proposal also omits the total cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — a move Mr. Daschle called “absolutely incomprehensible.”

Democrats say Mr. Bush’s budget puts the country on track for a $3.6 trillion projected debt — a number compiled by Senate Budget Committee Democratic staff.

But Republicans said the bottom line is that Democrats simply want to raise taxes, and while they complain repeatedly about Mr. Bush’s budget, they won’t be able to agree on one of their own.

“Democrats don’t have a budget, nor will they,” said Stuart Roy, spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican. Mr. Roy noted that last year, three groups of House Democrats came up with three separate budgets, so that if one was criticized, they could simply point to another one.

“Pelosi and Daschle continue to complain about the deficit, but then continue to call for more spending — which is inconsistent at a minimum,” he said, adding that Democrats appear to have “severe cognitive dissonance.”

Mrs. Pelosi said House Democrats will indeed offer their own budget, but did not give many details beyond that, except to say it will be aimed at “ensuring our national security, creating good-paying jobs, improving education, lowering health care costs and making college more affordable.”

Mr. Daschle said Senate Democrats will not offer a comprehensive budget alternative, but rather will address their concerns with a series of amendments once the Republican budget comes to the Senate floor. He said that all proposed spending measures will be offset in the Democratic proposals.

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