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Democrats Attack Bush’s Budget as Battle Moves to Committees

As the House and Senate Budget committees prepare to begin marking up their fiscal plans, Democrats blasted President Bush’s budget proposal Monday as irresponsible in light of the growing deficit.

“It is stunning in its lack of fiscal responsibility,” Senate Budget ranking member Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), said of the $2.2 trillion plan unveiled Monday morning. Both Budget panels are scheduled to begin their markups Wednesday.

Democrats juxtaposed Bush’s remark during the State of the Union speech that “We will not pass on our problems to other Congresses, other presidents and other generations” with his budget blueprint that allows a record $307 billion deficit in 2004.

“In his fiscal 2004 budget, President Bush continues his failed economic policies; promotes misguided, misplaced priorities; and uses budget gimmicks and accounting tricks worthy of Enron,” read a statement released by Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.).

But Senate Budget Chairman Don Nickles (R-Okla.) said the recession was to blame for the deficits and praised Bush’s new tax-cut proposal as the way to stimulate the economy and thereby generate more revenue.

When told Democrats called the president’s plan irresponsible, he countered: “They weren’t the party of fiscal discipline” during last month’s debate on the fiscal 2003 omnibus appropriations bill.

All amendments to that bill offered by Democrats tried to add money back into the 2003 budget, he said.

Conrad also charged that Bush’s plan would dip into the Social Security Trust Fund “on the eve of the retirement of the baby boom generation.”

According to numbers provided by Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, Bush’s plan would exhaust the trust fund’s entire $2.2 trillion surplus “for the foreseeable future.”

Conrad said most of the deficit is the result of Bush’s enacted and proposed tax cuts.

“We may be getting a tax cut now, but we’ll pay a debt tax later,” he said.

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