OMB director, GOP continue budget sparring

OMB director, GOP continue budget sparring

Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew today continued sparring with Congress over President Clinton's fiscal 2000 budget and Social Security plan.

House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio, picked up where Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., left off Tuesday, pressing Lew to explain the particulars of Clinton's plan to reserve for Social Security 62 percent of the $4.8 trillion unified budget surplus OMB projects will be generated in the next 15 years.

Kasich hammered the administration's failure to suggest changes in its twin bills to ensure the solvency of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. Kasich told Lew, "You have done nothing to make one single change in the Medicare program, and to say you're just going to put more bonds in the fund ... it isn't real money. Show me the money."

But Kasich also suggested he and the administration may find common ground in the idea of creating personal retirement accounts, although Kasich emphasized that he would view this merely as "an interim step" on the way to accomplishing the larger goal of returning 2 percent to 3 percent of payroll taxes to individuals to invest for themselves for their retirement.

Kasich also reiterated his strong criticism of Clinton's proposal to have an independent but government-appointed board, rather than individuals, invest a portion of the Social Security surplus in the market. But Lew did not give ground on the administration's preference to have such a board do the investing, and said individuals would benefit from Clinton's proposal to create Universal Savings Accounts.

In other budget-related news, six GOP senators wrote to Domenici today urging him to "pursue at least $600 billion in tax relief over the next 10 years" and to find funds for education programs while staying within fiscal 2000 discretionary spending caps. They also suggested the Social Security surplus be "walled off" so it cannot be used for any other purpose. The letter was signed by Sens. John Ashcroft of Missouri, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Rod Grams of Minnesota, Bob Smith of New Hampshire, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Wayne Allard of Colorado.