By The Hill Staff - 02/05/07 12:00 AM EST
Democrats in Congress strongly criticized President Bush's budget Monday, lambasting the White House's priorities.
The budget would increase defense spending and seeks to make Bush's first-term tax cuts permanent. Among the offsets to pay for these expenses and still balance the budget by 2012, the spending blueprint proposes a slow growth in non-defense discretionary funding and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the budget is full of "fiscal irresponsibility and misplaced priorities; it takes our country in the wrong direction." She was especially critical of Bush's cuts to Medicare and Medicaid and accused the president of "placing a higher priority on huge tax cuts for multi-millionaires than on urgent national needs."
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said the budget "is filled with debt and deception, [is] disconnected from reality, and continues to move America in the wrong direction." He criticized the administration for having "the worst fiscal record in history," adding that "this budget does nothing to change that."
Pelosi vowed "the most rigorous congressional scrutiny possible" regarding funds marked for the war in Iraq.
In a nod to Congress, the administration this year included the figures in the regular budget instead of submitting a separate supplemental at another point in the year.
"We heard loud and clear from Congress that they were seeking more transparency and more and better information sooner, so they could conduct appropriate oversight," Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman told reporters. "And so we've tried to be responsive to that concern."
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) also promised to look carefully at the budget and how the money is spent, specifically with regard to the $716.5 billion in defense spending and paying for the military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We cannot provide an adequate national defense on the cheap, but neither can we afford to simply ratify the president's request without performing the due diligence and oversight our Constitution requires," Skelton said.
Democrats said to achieve a balanced budget, both parties would need to work together and tough choices would need to be made in order not to pass on a huge deficit to the next generation.
Republicans applauded Bush's plan, praising it as a way to balance the budget without raising taxes.
Senate Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said the spending plan reflects the president's "goals of continuing robust economic growth, protecting the nation from harm and spending wisely on domestic priorities."
Restrained non-defense annual spending, a reduction in the growth of certain entitlement programs and strong revenues triggered by existing tax policies will combine to drive the deficit down and produce a surplus in 2012," he added.
- Klaus Marre