- The Washington Times - Monday, February 7, 2005

President Bush is expected to present his $2.5 trillion budget request to Congress today, with many anticipating major cuts in domestic spending.

“We are being tight,” Vice President Dick Cheney said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s not something we’ve done with a meat ax, nor are we suddenly turning our backs on the most needy people in our society,” Mr. Cheney said.

In his State of the Union address, Mr. Bush said he would rein in the significant spending increases that occurred during his first term. Some in Congress cautioned against extending the budget reductions to defense spending.

“Our nation is fighting two wars: the war against global terrorists and the war against insurgents in Iraq. Both are critical to our national security, and we cannot afford to lose either one,” said Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

“I am worried that the budget request … may weaken our efforts in both these wars while undermining our ability to prepare for future conflicts.”

He said the Pentagon budget request is expected to be $418.1 billion for fiscal year 2006, $4.6 billion less than what the Department of Defense said it would need, while leaked budget documents show that the funding will actually be closer to $419.3 billion, 4.8 percent higher than this year.

Much of the increase will go to beefing up manpower in the enlisted ranks, increasing salaries for civilian and uniformed forces and more money to secure and destroy chemical and biological weapons.

The president also is expected to request about $157 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, with a big chunk going to training and preparedness for firefighters and police officers.

Increased spending also is expected to cover Mr. Bush’s plan to give a tax incentive to Americans to get private health insurance.

Overall, the budget will increase by about 2.5 percent, one of the lowest annual increases in government in recent memory, said Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican.

Rachel Gragg, senior policy analyst for the Center for Community Change, said she is worried about cuts, after Mr. Bush said last week he wanted to consolidate, scale back or eliminate 150 programs currently in the budget.

“We’re particularly concerned about cuts in the entitlements side to Medicare, Medicaid and education services,” Miss Gragg said. “There are community development block grants, Section 8 housing, community health programs and economic development and auxiliary nutrition programs and outreach that the administration has repeatedly tried to zero out, and on and on.”

Miss Gragg said the center, an anti-poverty advocacy organization, will lobby to protect Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding for programs including adult literacy and job training, child care subsidies, foster care and school summer nutrition and free lunch programs.

“We’re worried we’ll get hit from all sides,” she said.

Democrats began complaining two weeks ago about the pain that budget cuts would inflict.

Sens. Jon Corzine and Frank R. Lautenberg, both New Jersey Democrats, criticized an expected proposal to eliminate federal subsidies for Amtrak’s operating expenses.

“The president from Texas clearly does not understand the needs of the commuters or the economy of New Jersey or the Northeast corridor,” Mr. Corzine said.

Democrats were also concerned $46 million would be cut from the Cooperative Threat Reduction program to find and secure nuclear arms materials.

Although many on the Senate budget committee said they did not expect Congress to make much headway on cutting anywhere close to the 150 programs the president will call for this year, Miss Gragg said either way the money still may not be there.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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