- The Washington Times - Monday, February 6, 2006

Democrats said President Bush’s proposed $2.77 trillion fiscal 2007 budget was unrealistic and worthless because he ignored key spending and tax cuts that he has touted himself.

Although House Republicans called his reductions in entitlement spending a start, some Senate Republicans said further cuts will be difficult to enact after Congress slowed Medicare’s growth last year.

“This budget is utterly detached from any financial reality,” said Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee.

Democrats said it leaves them plenty of room to argue that Republicans are out of touch with voters’ concerns.

“It’s a statement of what the president’s and Republicans’ priorities are, and it takes serious hits at health care, gas and home heating prices and education,” said Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Democrats said Mr. Bush will leave a “legacy of debt,” a dramatic change from the $5.6 trillion, 10-year surplus that was projected when he took office.

They said his proposed budget omits a 10-year, $1 trillion change to the alternative minimum tax on which all top leaders in Congress agree and leaves out any calculation of long-term war costs.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan wondered whether some of the critics “even had a chance to read the budget.”

He said Congress took solid steps last year toward cutting spending and must build on that progress.

Republicans reacted cautiously to the budget.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican and the head of the conservative Republican Study Committee’s budget task force, said Mr. Bush took “four steps forward and one step backward.”

He said Mr. Bush was right to call for Medicare budget controls as a sign that he is serious about reducing growth in entitlement spending.

But he said Mr. Bush must include the costs of the war on terror to measure against other budget priorities.

He and other House conservatives said Mr. Bush’s proposed spending on science and math education and fuel programs were worthwhile but must be offset by cuts to other programs.

Meanwhile, some Senate Republicans joined Democrats in criticizing Mr. Bush’s choices.

Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, said she was “disappointed and even surprised” at the proposed $36 billion reduction in Medicare spending, and made it clear that she will fight it.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said last year’s Medicare and Medicaid cuts of $11.1 billion over five years were tough and that “any more reductions of a significant scope could be difficult this year.”

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