House GOP leaders say they may bust budget caps

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, Wednesday separately indicated Congress may bust the budget caps when writing the fiscal 2000 budget resolution.

"When you look at the reality of the budget, there's some probability that we have to look at" the caps, said Hastert, adding: "We have to look at the whole issue of caps. I'm not saying we're going to bust them or not going to bust them."

But DeLay was a bit more direct. When asked whether the spending caps would have to be raised, DeLay said: "It's reality, probably, that we have to bust the caps. But we're going to try to keep it to a minimum, minimum, minimum level."

DeLay said going beyond the caps may be required to fund increases in military spending that he and other Republicans consider crucial.

The talk of breaking the caps did not play well with House GOP conservatives. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a freshman member of the Conservative Action Team and a Budget Committee member, said, "I will push as hard as I can in committee to stay within the caps." But, he added: "We simply cannot have a higher discretionary spending number than the President. I think a lot of conservatives would have a problem voting for that."

At a separate news conference, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., warned that lifting the budget caps would be a "setback" and a "disappointment." Daschle said: "I think it's critical to start showing some discipline, and I'm not sure we're setting a good example this morning. I'd certainly be very concerned about losing the discipline that got us to this point."

But then Daschle opened the door on the issue by saying, "Obviously, we can revisit the caps, given the state of the economy and our circumstances." He also added Republicans and Democrats would have to "grapple" with it.

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