Senators hit OMB chief on agency consolidations, budget reforms

Senate appropriators Wednesday picked at some of Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels' budget plans for his own agency, but the Treasury-Postal Appropriations Subcommittee session was a mild-mannered affair compared with Daniels' tangle with House appropriators a week earlier.

Subcommitee Chairman Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., told Daniels he would oppose the administration's plan to consolidate the U.S. Customs Service with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, saying: "We should not visit the problems of INS on Customs ... I think the president would find significant resistance in Congress to such a suggestion."

Dorgan and ranking member Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., informed Daniels that the administration's plan to consolidate functions in the Executive Office of the President faced stiff resistance as well.

Dorgan also took issue with Daniels' claim that the administration's "full-cost accounting" of federal retirement costs in agencies' budgets would leave agencies such as Customs with a net funding increase for fiscal 2003.

Daniels said Customs' funding level was based on the recommendation of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and included "a real increase," even after accounting for the retirement costs.

And Daniels said the administration would "strongly oppose" any effort to shift to other programs the $9 billion it set aside for the "full-cost accounting" reform, which he portrayed as a critical and unprecedented step in federal budgeting.

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