GOP bashes Democrats on supplemental, fiscal 2003 budget

Tax--and budget resolution--deadline day may have passed, but Republicans in both chambers and at the White House Tuesday called for fiscal restraint in how Congress responds to the administration's third fiscal 2002 supplemental spending request. They also continued to criticize the Democratic Senate's failure, thus far, to adopt a fiscal 2003 budget plan.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., fired the day's opening salvo when he took to the Senate floor to pronounce the prospect of the Senate not passing a budget resolution "very troubling."

Lott predicted "legislative chaos for the remainder of the year" if the Senate lacks a budget and points of order to control the appropriations process, and pointed out that, since enactment of the 1974 Budget Act, the Senate has never failed to pass its own budget, and accused Democrats of not wanting to cast the "tough votes" needed to pass a budget with such a razor-thin majority.

Lott also took particular aim at the reserve fund the Democratic budget would create for defense spending after fiscal 2004, calling the reserve "nothing more than a gimmick" and the budget "soft on defense" for not giving the president his entire 10-year defense spending request without any strings attached.

Across the Capitol, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, chided Daschle and the Senate for not passing a budget before the statutory deadline for a conference report to be completed.

"April 15 has come and gone, and the Senate has not produced a budget," Armey told reporters. "This is a continued pattern of failed leadership that is borne out of … a combination of inability and indifference."

Armey also said he opposed spending more than what the administration requested last month in the supplemental and suggested President Bush should veto any spending beyond his $27 billion request.

"We thought that was--what should I say--ample, with a capital 'A,' " Armey said of the request.

House leaders have contemplated attaching a potentially difficult vote to raise the debt ceiling to the supplemental. "If the supplemental goes beyond the $27 [billion], then I … would argue against putting the debt ceiling on it because I would want the president to have every sense of freedom to veto it," he said. Armey said most legislators' requests for additional supplemental spending are defense-related and acknowledged they were coming from both sides of the aisle.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, who spoke at an American League of Lobbyists lunch, told the group the White House thinks that, with the latest $27 billion request, "We think that's going to be enough money for this year" and rejected the idea of yet another supplemental.

Asked later by reporters whether Bush would veto the supplemental if it exceeds $27 billion, Daniels declined to use the word "veto," but did say Bush has "made it plain that if he is called on to be the brake on excessive spending, he's prepared to do it."

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