House budget chair seeks to freeze domestic spending
He said spending for defense and homeland security would be trimmed 0.5 percent from President Bush's request. He also said he would propose to GOP leaders a one-year moratorium on earmarks in appropriations bills and would like to freeze funding for unauthorized programs.
Under Nussle's plan, there would be no new mandatory or entitlement expenditures for a year. His plan would make room for a supplemental -- not to exceed $50 billion -- for operations in Iraq. He said his plan would produce a budget deficit under $500 billion, compared to the estimated fiscal 2004 deficit of $524 billion.
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Chairman Grassley said he would not oppose including reconciliation instructions in a Senate budget resolution being worked out by GOP leaders, but preferred not to use reconciliation protection to pass tax cuts this year.
"I don't mind reconciliation being a possibility, but I would rather have it as a shotgun behind the door," he said. Grassley said he did not want to use reconciliation, which would protect tax cuts from a filibuster, because it "hurts the bipartisan opportunity to get a tax bill passed." He added that it was less imperative to use the reconciliation option this year than in previous years because of the improving economy.
"The absolute essentiality of passing tax legislation is less so now," he said. Grassley said he believes that legislation to extend the three tax cuts that expire at the end of this year -- an increased child tax credit, expanded 10 percent bracket and increased standard deduction for married couples -- can pass the Senate with bipartisan support. The Joint Tax Committee scored the cost of extending those items through fiscal 2009 at $93 billion. Nussle also backed that proposal.
Senate Budget Committee Republicans met Tiesday to work out details of the chamber's budget resolution, which Budget Committee Chairman Don Nickles, R-Okla., plans to consider in committee Wednesday and Thursday. Grassley, who attended the meeting, said he and Nickles had agreed to include a tax reconciliation package to provide future legislation extending some tax breaks with procedural protections. But senators emerging from the meeting said the panel was still hung up over spending levels, particularly for defense and transportation programs.
With an $814 billion spending cap set by last year's budget resolution, senators are looking to cut $9 billion from the president's request of $823 billion in fiscal 2005 as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.
Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., said defense spending was "looking at a big increase" under President Bush's plan, but that a number of senators, Nickles included, were uncomfortable with reductions in Bush's defense budget. The other big ticket item is highway funding, Burns said, with some panel Republicans wanting to increase spending above the president's request.
Nickles predicted that before Wednesday's scheduled 2:15 p.m. markup there would be agreement on outstanding items. "We will have a budget, and I think it will be supported by a majority," he said.