Showdown looms over U.S. budget

first_imgBush has focused his budget-cutting sword on domestic programs funded through annual spending bills, cutting grants to local law enforcement agencies and heating aid to the poor. Other elements of Conrad’s plan generally anticipate a stand-pat year. For starters, there are no plans to revisit Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, though Conrad’s budget produces a surplus in five years by assuming that they expire. The annual congressional budget resolution is a nonbinding document that sets guidelines for subsequent legislation. Often – like this year – its most important feature is to set a “cap” on the 12 spending bills produced by the appropriations committees. In other years, the congressional budget blueprint eases filibuster-proof passage through the Senate of tax legislation or cuts to benefit programs like Medicare and the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled. Conrad’s budget plan does not anticipate fast-track action on tax or spending legislation. He dropped plans to allow filibuster-proof consideration of a must-pass bill to increase the almost $9 trillion limit on the portion of the national debt capped by law. WASHINGTON – Democrats controlling Congress plan to award domestic agencies an average budget increase of almost 5 percent as they begin drafting their response to President George W. Bush’s February budget plan. The spending hikes are included in a budget plan to be unveiled today by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1. A party-line committee vote to approve the plan is expected Thursday. Much of the approximately $18 billion increase over Bush’s budget for nondefense programs funded by Congress each year will be devoted to education and veterans medical programs. Bush’s budget called for a 1 percent hike in such programs and he is sure to resist the increases as too profligate. A major showdown looms in the fall. Bush has yet to veto a spending bill, though a threat hangs over a $124 billion Iraq war funding bill over Democrats’ efforts to set a timeline to pull U.S. combat troops from Iraq. An aide to a Budget Committee Democrat revealed the proposed hike in domestic programs and other details about Conrad’s plan. The domestic-spending boost pales compared with an approximately $50 billion budget increase – to $481 billion – for the core Pentagon budget and $145 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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