Bush budget roundly bashed Democrats say plan is too little too late.


WASHINGTON -- Democrats are charging that President Bush's new budget is a buy-now, pay-later "blueprint for re-election and not recovery" that employs a variety of accounting gimmicks to conceal an increase in the long-term deficit.

While Republicans on Capitol Hill appeared overjoyed that Mr. Bush had come up with a plan to fight the recession months after the hard times settled in, the harsh Democratic criticism indicated that his proposals may run into tough sledding in this election year.

The chairmen of the Senate and House Budget committees said in a joint appearance that Mr. Bush's recommended tax cuts unduly favor the rich and are far too small to spur the weakened economy into renewed growth this year.

They also described the president's proposed cut of $50 billion in military outlays over the next five years as "minuscule" and signaled that Democrats would press for much greater savings in Pentagon spending now that the Cold War was over.

The instant indictment of the Bush budget was presented at a news conference by Sen. Jim Sasser, D-Tenn., head of the Senate panel, and Rep. Leon E. Panetta, D-Calif., the chief budget specialist in the House.

At least one other Democrat was far less critical. Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., said that he believed that the president's controversial plan to reduce taxes on capital gains would be approved by Congress, despite the opposition of Democratic leaders in both chambers. Mr. Hollings said that he also supported a freeze in domestic spending and a 10 percent reduction in federal employees to go along with the president's objectives of reducing the size of government.

By contrast, Republicans seemed to be unanimously supporting the main outlines of the president's plan as Mr. Bush made a rare visit to Capitol Hill to meet with GOP members of the House and Senate as well as with Democratic leaders in both chambers.

"We're going to stick together," said Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., speaking for 43 GOP senators. "I get the sense that we are on board for the duration."

As Mr. Dole gave the president an "A-plus" for his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, House GOP leaders said that they would seek to get congressional action on Mr. Bush's plan by the March 20 deadline that he set for the lawmakers.

House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., however, said that Mr. Bush's proposals deserved a flunking grade because they would not promote long-term investments.

"It's more trickle-down, supply-side economics that failed in the 1980s," Mr. Gephardt said in an NBC-TV interview.

Mr. Panetta, who is regarded as one of the less partisan Democrats on budget matters, said that the net effect of the budget would be an increase ranging from $70 billion to $100 billion in the deficit over the next 10 years, despite Mr. Bush's more optimistic projections.

Mr. Sasser said, however, that he sees "the germ of a bipartisan program" in the president's approach.

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