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Congressional Democrats Criticize Bush Budget

U.S. lawmakers have received President Bush's spending plan for the next budget year beginning in October. The plan proposes cuts in many popular domestic programs and leaves out expected spending requests for Iraq and Afghanistan, paving the way for months of difficult congressional negotiations.

Mr. Bush's $2.5 trillion budget boosts spending on defense and homeland security, but calls for cuts in many popular domestic programs.

Democrats immediately seized on the budget blueprint for omitting future costs for Iraq and Afghanistan and money for reforming the Social Security retirement system.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California called the budget a "hoax on the American people" because of the omissions.

The Bush administration has said it would ask Congress for an additional $80 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan in the coming weeks.

The president's budget seeks to eliminate or significantly cut some 150 government programs that the White House believes are inefficient or no longer necessary.

But Democrats argue that despite the drastic cuts, little is being done to erase the budget deficit, projected to be $390 billion under the president's plan.

"That is not a plan to strengthen America, that is not a plan that is conservative," said Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat. "That is a plan that I would suggest to you is reckless, radical, and it is wrong."

Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, took issue with Mr. Bush's request to cut medical benefits to military veterans, at a time when thousands of seriously injured U.S. troops are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"A lot of us are going to stop that," she said. "Let me tell you, a lot of us are not going to let that happen."

But even members of President Bush's Republican Party, who are in the congressional majority, have signaled their opposition to some proposed budget cuts.

In a statement, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Mr. Bush's budget lacks adequate resources for so-called first responders - fire and law-enforcement personnel who are the first to respond to terror attacks.

But Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, says the budget blueprint takes an appropriate approach to fiscal spending, and sends the right signal to the rest of the world.

"The international community has been telling us with a fair amount of intensity that if we do not put our fiscal house in order and put in place the restraints necessary to manage our budget, they are going to continue to have resistance relative to purchasing the dollar, and that reduces the value of the dollar," he said.

Senator Gregg highlighted Mr. Bush's budget requests in the realm of foreign policy.

"There is a significant commitment here, especially for example, peacekeeping, and in the area of public diplomacy, and in the area of HIV/AIDS, so the president has laid out some priorities here," he said.

The budget also includes more than $5 billion to support nations considered to be on the front line against terrorism, including Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, Indonesia and the Philippines.