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Bush Budget Expected To Cause Friction Over Domestic Priorities - 2002-02-05

President Bush has sent Congress a $2 trillion federal budget for 2003, a blueprint for government spending that reflects a change in U.S. priorities after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The president is calling for massive increases in defense spending and a doubling of the budget for domestic security.

With the nation at war, the Bush budget is calling for the biggest surge in military spending since the Reagan administration 20 years ago and further increases of over $100 billion over the next five years.

It would be the largest boost in Pentagon spending in a generation, but the president told U.S. military personnel in Florida Monday that the increases are needed to fight what could be a multi-year war against terrorism. "We are absolutely resolved to find terrorists where they hide and root them out one by one," says Mr. Bush.

With Mr. Bush enjoying extraordinarily high public support for his handling of the war, lawmakers in both parties expect Congress will likely approve much of what he wants for defense and enhanced domestic security.

But that's about where agreement ends. These proposed spending increases come at a time when the president also wants Congress to make his 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax cut permanent. Some Democrats already blame the tax cut for a return to projected budget deficits.

It's traditional for the party that does not hold the White House in this case the Democrats -- to declare presidential budgets 'dead on arrival' the day they arrive on Capitol Hill. But reaction from Democrats this year has been much more muted. Thomas Mann is an expert on budget politics at Washington's Brookings Institution. "I think Democrats are wary given the President's enormous popularity," he says. "I think their response will be much more indirect realizing he's popular but the budget is loaded with politically explosive deficits and cuts in popular programs and will eventually give them, the Democrats, room to operate."

The unveiling of the President's $2.1 trillion budget marks the start of what will likely become a months-long battle as Republicans and Democrats spend much of this year in a political fight to push their own spending priorities through Congress. It's a battle that will likely lead all the way up to November's congressional elections.