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Archive for Monday, August 19, 2002

Democrats’ budget plan assailed

August 19, 2002

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— A White House aide criticized Senate Democrats on Sunday for seeking to spend more than President Bush wants, insisting on fiscal discipline but refusing to speculate about vetoes.

"We have very clear priorities and we ought to focus our scarce resources on those priorities," said Dan Bartlett, the president's communications director.

"The Senate has shown an inability not to live within those limits. ... There's no restraint in the Senate right now, which is a very large concern to the president."

Bush and the House want the 13 spending bills for budget year that begins Oct. 1 to total $759 billion. The Senate is aiming at $770 billion. The spending bills cover one-third of the $2.1 trillion federal budget, omitting automatic benefit programs like Social Security.

Though the $11 billion difference is just over 1 percent of the money at stake, such sums have repeatedly led to divisive battles in Congress.

Bush is struggling to keep federal deficits from growing even larger and he used his weekly radio address Saturday to promote the no-deficits theme that emerged from the economic summit last week near his Texas ranch.

"I'm not going to speculate where and when the president will or will not use vetoes. But he will, as he has shown this past week, insist on fiscal discipline," Bartlett said on ABC's "This Week."

"The president is willing to focus on fiscal discipline in the way that the executive branch can. He does have confidence that the House and the Senate can reach an agreement that fits within the budget framework."

Bush last week scrapped $5.1 billion in emergency spending approved by Congress, saying much of it was unnecessary. Veterans, firefighters, AIDS activists and Jewish groups accused him of abandoning their causes by depriving them of money.

"My job is to set the priorities," the president replied Friday.

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