- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2008

President Bush’s 2009 federal budget, which he is expected to present to Congress Monday, will continue to hold nonmandatory spending on domestic programs at near zero growth, administration officials said yesterday.

The budget, which likely will exceed $3 trillion, also will seek to cut more than $200 billion in mandatory spending over five years. About $178 billion of those cuts will be made in Medicare expenditures.

The president’s request for spending on nondefense discretionary projects — which are optional — will grow by less than 1 percent, said Bush administration officials who provided the budget information on the condition that their names not be used.

In his second term, Mr. Bush has attempted to reduce discretionary spending after it ballooned in his first year and remained high for all of his first term, outpacing the rate of nonmandatory spending under President Clinton, a Democrat.

Discretionary spending rose by 16.8 percent in 2001, by 6.2 percent in 2002, by 5.5 percent in 2003, and by 4.3 percent in 2004.

In 2005, growth was 2.2 percent, and in 2006, it hit an all-time low for the Bush presidency at 0.3 percent. Since then it has stayed low, rising by 1.5 percent in 2007 and 0.6 percent in 2008.

Mr. Bush also has tried to make spending a core Republican issue again, after he was maligned for expenditure levels and Republican lawmakers gained a reputation for stuffing appropriations bills with wasteful “pork-barrel” spending while they were in control of Congress.

Mr. Bush has taken a hard line on tax increases and last year successfully faced down the Democrat-controlled Congress over spending bills that were $22 billion higher than his requested budget.

Democrats, however, have continued to criticize Mr. Bush for inheriting a $236 billion budget surplus and turning it into a $167 billion deficit.

A group of Senate Republicans yesterday announced a 2008 agenda designed focused on cutting taxes, balancing the federal budget and investing in national security.

“The American people are looking for common sense solutions to today’s problems, and conservatives have long been the source of these ideas,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican and chairman of the Senate steering committee that set the agenda.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and steering committee member, said, “The federal government is on an unsustainable course and these policies will help ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the freedom and opportunities we take for granted.”

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