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Bush Seeks Higher Defense Budget - 2001-08-29


President Bush wants more money for defense despite figures that show he may have to borrow from government retirement accounts to balance this year's budget. Mr. Bush says he will not back down from asking Congress for $8-billion more for the military.

The President told a group of veterans that his budget makes defense a top priority that must be met regardless of a shrinking government surplus.

"This budget I submitted to Congress makes national defense a priority," the president said. "I have asked Congress to provide the largest increase in military spending since Ronald Reagan was the President and Commander in Chief of the United States."

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the President will have to borrow $9 billion from the Social Security trust fund to meet government spending. The report says a record budget surplus has fallen 45 percent in the last four months as a result of a sluggish economy and the President's $1.3 trillion tax cut.

Mr. Bush says that tax cut is not dragging the economy down. Instead, he says more money in the pockets of American consumers will help spark an economic turnaround as official figures show the country's Gross Domestic Product or GDP hit an eight-year low of 0.2 percent in the second quarter.

"Our economy began slowing down last year and that's bad news, and I'm deeply worried about the working families all across the country," Mr. Bush said. "According to today's GDP figures, the recovery is very slow in coming. But with tax reduction already in place, Americans will have more of their own money to spend, to save, and invest."

Democrats say Mr. Bush wasted record surpluses for the political gain of tax cuts. Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. He says President Bush will not get $18 billion more for defense because the money would have to come from a surplus balance in health care. Senator Conrad says Republicans have only themselves to blame for the shortfall.

"This is their spending plan. This is their tax plan. These are their budget deficits," Senator Conrad said. "And we can now see that they will be raiding the Medicare and Social Security trust funds of over $500 billion over the 11 year period. That is a serious mistake. It has serious consequences."

Democrats do not want to look weak on defense when Congress reconvenes next week. They may try to trim money for missile defense from the military request while keeping funds for hardware and training.

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