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Key Democratic Lawmakers Criticize Republican Budget Plans - 2002-01-11

Key Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have sharply criticized Republicans over their plans for the next federal budget, which could include new tax cuts. President Bush says tax cuts are needed to get the economy out of recession. The Democrats say the Republican plan would hurt the economy and lead to a lasting budget deficit.

With Congress still in recess, the ranking Democratic member of the House Budget Committee, John Spratt, held a news conference in Washington Thursday, expressing his concern over Republican budget plans.

President Bush and most Republican lawmakers want to include an economic stimulus package that includes new tax cuts in the next fiscal budget. A White House plan is expected to be ready when Congress reconvenes at the end of the month.

However, Congressman Spratt accused the Bush administration of squandering the budget surplus established during the Clinton presidency. "We have got a problem, there's no question about it," he said. "Particularly if we're sincere about the commitment, the bipartisan, bicameral, commitment we made not to borrow and spend the Social Security surplus anymore, not to borrow and spend the Medicare surplus either anymore. A fundamentally important agreement, surely one of the top drawer priorities I would hope for both parties is at risk right here. We're in the danger zone."

Congressman Spratt and other Democrats blame the growing shortfall on President Bush's 11-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut, which was passed last year.

The Republican Chairman of the House Budget Committee Jim Nussle of Iowa released a statement in rebuttal, saying the decline in the federal budget surplus is due to the war on terrorism and the recession.

President Bush has made similar comments, saying a deficit is likely in a time of national emergency.

With Democrats in control in the Senate, the upcoming budget battle is expected to be fierce.