- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 16, 2004

House Republicans have followed their Senate colleagues and decided against proposed cuts to President Bush’s defense spending request as the House Budget Committee tries again today to move the 2005 Republican budget proposal forward.

House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, Iowa Republican, initially tried to appease Republican deficit hawks by proposing to trim $2 billion from Mr. Bush’s 2005 request for defense spending. But after a revolt by more than 30 Republicans led by Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter of California, Mr. Nussle backed down and restored defense funding to Mr. Bush’s full request of $401.7 billion.

“Several members of the conference said that everything needed to be on the table [for cuts],” said Nussle spokesman Sean Spicer. “So when the defense folks drew a line in the sand, we worked to a point where we said, ‘If this is what it has to be, this is what it has to be.’”

Before passing its budget last week, the Senate also adopted an amendment to give Mr. Bush his full defense funding request for 2005 by restoring the $7 billion cut proposed by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican. The amendment passed by a 95-4 vote, with support from even the fiscal conservatives who had fought for spending restraint.

In the House, Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, said he could have supported a cut in defense spending “if it made it possible for us to achieve significant spending restraint,” but “it came down to the practical concern that the last time you should ever cut defense is when you have troops in harm’s way.”

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, Maryland Republican and one of the Armed Services Committee members who initially fought Mr. Nussle’s proposed defense cut, agreed.

“When our young men and women are out there bleeding and dying, we can’t send a message that we’re shortchanging them,” he said.

Mr. Nussle’s budget proposes a total of $819 billion in discretionary spending. It recommends about $31 billion for homeland security and holds non-defense discretionary spending to last year’s levels, at about $386 billion.

Mr. Nussle had to delay a vote on his proposal last week after conservative and moderate Republicans on the panel demanded that Congress create mechanisms to enforce budget limits. The tentative agreement yesterday, Mr. Spicer said, was to consider a separate bill to address these concerns.

Details of that bill were not available, but Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican and one of the budget committee members who revolted, said it likely would impose discretionary spending caps and “pay-as-you-go” rules that would make it more difficult to increase spending without finding offsets to pay for it.

Some moderate Republicans want these rules to apply to tax cuts as well, but House Republican leaders and the Bush administration oppose it.

The Senate, by a vote of 51-48, approved an amendment to its budget plan last week that would apply “pay-as-you-go” rules to both tax cuts and spending.

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