- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

President Bush said yesterday the federal government won’t raise taxes but must cut spending to cover some of the costs from Hurricane Katrina, responding to a mini-revolt in his party over the escalating price tag.

“We’re going to have to make sure we cut unnecessary spending,” Mr. Bush said. “We’ve got to maintain economic growth and, therefore, we should not raise taxes.

“Our working people have had to pay a tax, in essence … by higher gasoline prices, and we don’t need to be taking more money out of their pocket,” he added.

Congress has passed two bills totaling $62.3 billion so far, and Mr. Bush’s pledge Thursday night to rebuild the Gulf Coast means that figure will go much higher. And while those first two bills passed easily, some House and Senate Republicans said they would require more control and a closer look at spending before Mr. Bush comes back with another request.

The president said his Office of Management and Budget will work with Congress “to figure out where we need to offset.”

House conservatives will give Mr. Bush some help. They plan to offer a list of cuts at a press conference Wednesday.

Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican and a leading budget hawk, said cutting spending now is the compassionate thing to do because it lessens the burden for future generations.

He said, though, that it remains to be seen whether Mr. Bush will follow through.

“Time will tell. I hope so, but the recent record is not good,” he said. He pointed to Mr. Bush initially drawing a line on total spending on the recent highway bill, then letting that line be crossed several times until he finally signed a bill that was much more expensive.

“The record is not encouraging, but maybe it’s a new day and this is just so big that perhaps he realizes that there’s certainly public support for it,” Mr. Flake said. “I think everybody knows this federal government is bloated. It is morbidly obese.”

Mr. Bush, answering questions at a joint appearance with Russian President Vladimir Putin, did not mention any particular cuts. A few hours beforehand, White House officials said they had not given any thought to cuts.

“I cannot name any programs that will be cut. In fact, we did not focus on that,” said Claude Allen, White House domestic policy adviser.

But pressure to cut grew among Republicans during the week.

On Thursday a small band of lawmakers demanded that Mr. Bush show leadership in pursuing spending cuts.

And Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, and 20 other House Republicans sent a letter to the president calling on him to cut nonmilitary spending to pay for U.S. obligations.

The lawmakers said he should follow the example of two Democratic presidents: Franklin Roosevelt cut non-defense spending by 20 percent from 1942 to 1944 and Harry Truman cut non-defense spending by 28 percent in one year after the Korean War started.

“Congress and the president have a historic opportunity to show the American people that we are not afraid to make hard choices on cutting current federal spending when a national disaster requires investment of tens, possibly hundreds of billions of dollars,” they wrote.

Mr. Bush’s new call to cut spending is a challenge for Congress. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Thursday he was “not really into cutting right now,” and Republican leaders had been content to add the costs to the deficit because it was one-time spending.

“My answer to those that want to offset the spending is, sure, bring me the offsets. I will be glad to do it, but no one has been able to come up with any yet,” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, said Tuesday.

He and other Republican leaders have focused more on controlling the hurricane-relief spending to make sure it is not wasted or used for fraudulent claims.

Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have received federal disaster-relief funds since Hurricane Katrina struck, according to figures provided to Congress.

Through Wednesday, FEMA had allocated $13.8 billion for Katrina. Of that, $9.8 billion has already been obligated through signed contracts or money actually spent.

The allocations include $5.9 billion in human services, including $3.6 billion for thousands of trailer homes.

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