- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2006

Conservatives on Capitol Hill are preparing for two major fights this week with the Bush administration on runaway federal spending.

In recent weeks, President Bush has asked Congress for an additional $92 billion to spend on the war in Iraq and the cleanup from Hurricane Katrina. The administration also has asked Congress to raise the federal government’s debt limit.

While conservatives privately acknowledge that both requests will ultimately be granted, they are also demanding that cuts be made elsewhere in the budget and that serious reforms be put in place to control future spending.

“We are on autopilot to do one of two things right now,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican. “Either we will have to double federal taxes on our children, or the federal government will have to drop all of its primary functions in order to pay for things like Social Security.”

In the Senate, which votes this week on raising the debt limit, conservatives want new rules established to curb spending. They have discussed placing severe limits on earmarks, passing budgets every two years and enforcing budget caps.

“It’s the wrong time to do it politically, and from a policy perspective, without including some meaningful budget-reform measures,” said John Hart, spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican.

In the House, which will vote on the $92 billion in additional spending this week, conservatives are unhappy with how the administration and Republican leadership has handled the “supplemental” spending bill.

They had hoped for a package of cuts elsewhere in the federal budget to go along with new spending. They also wanted the request for new Katrina spending to be handled separately from the Iraq spending.

More than anything, conservatives don’t like approving such spending in “supplemental” requests that are outside the normal budget process.

“We are concerned about the continuing practice of financing the war through supplementals,” Mr. Hensarling said. “What little bit of budget discipline that’s left in this town is avoided.”

Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, which handled the supplemental request, said the bill was handled in normal fashion and was reduced below the administration’s request by $700 million.

Kevin Madden, spokesman for Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said the spending request will go to the floor as one bill because that’s how the appropriations committee reported it out.

“There will be an opportunity for those members interested in registering a vote on the Katrina rebuilding funds portion of the bill to do just that,” he said.

“I’m not happy with the Republican record on spending,” said Mr. Hensarling, who is a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee. “I might give Republicans a C-plus, but Democrats get an F.”

Mr. Hensarling declined to give a grade for Mr. Bush, but offered to “send him a refill for his veto pen.”

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