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White House Defends 2004 Budget Proposal - 2003-02-03

U.S. President George W. Bush has sent Congress a $2.2 trillion budget proposal for 2004. It calls for accelerated tax cuts and billions of extra dollars for the military and homeland security.

This is the president's budget blueprint for the fiscal year that begins in October. Its arrival on Capitol Hill marks the beginning of months of negotiations and debate.

Democrats are complaining that the president's plan to accelerate tax cuts will do more harm than good and favor businesses and the wealthy.

They note that this budget proposal calls for big federal deficits, and say the Bush administration's fiscal policies are to blame.

The White House is making an all-out effort to deflect the criticism.

When asked about the deficits, White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said they have nothing to do with tax cuts. He points to lingering effects of the recession that began in 2000 and the high costs of the September 2001 terrorist attacks and the resulting war on terrorism.

In his accompanying budget message to Congress, the president points to three national priorities for 2004: defeating terrorism, securing the homeland, and generating long-term economic growth. Mr. Bush says in all other areas, Congress must seek to restrain federal spending.