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White House shows no sign of budging over spending

The White House Tuesday showed no sign of budging on its desire to hold the line on spending, despite continuing Democratic demands for more money to combat terrorism and aid areas affected by the Sept. 11 attacks.

Referring to an earlier deal between congressional appropriators and the White House to hold fiscal 2002 spending to $686 billion and keep the supplemental at $40 billion, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer today declared, "A deal is a deal is a deal."

Fleischer reiterated President Bush's threat to veto legislation that breaches the agreed-upon totals. And the White House will continue its campaign to pressure the Senate to pass a stimulus package. Bush will make the point during his weekly breakfast meeting Wednesday with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., Fleischer said. And the President will urge movement on stimulus legislation in a speech to be delivered later Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, continued to press the Senate to act on stimulus legislation. "There is in fact a recession and that obviously gives us some sense of urgency," Armey said, chiding Daschle for scheduling Senate votes on railroad retirement legislation and the farm bill instead of continuing to work on a stimulus package.

Armey said public opinion over the Thanksgiving break could, in part, determine whether the Senate acts on a stimulus plan.

"Have they communicated to the Senate in the past 10 days that this is an important thing in their lives?" Armey asked.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., also continued to blast Daschle for failing to move a stimulus bill through the Senate, dismissing as "hogwash" the suggestion that no tax bill could garner 60 votes to overcome a budget point of order.

Thomas also charged that Daschle deliberately helped create a partisan measure in the Senate Finance Committee. Thomas continued to refuse to negotiate any bicameral agreement so long as the $15 billion package of domestic security spending items remains on the table. Without those items, Thomas said the leaders of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees could put together a compromise "over a weekend."

Thomas declined to offer specific views on the package put together by Senate moderates. However, he acknowledged that a final bill could contain items not approved by either House. Also, while he continued to vigorously defend full repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax, he said he would look at other options "assuming there is a middle ground."