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Democrats Criticize Bush Budget Blueprint - 2003-02-04

Congressional Democrats are sharply criticizing President Bush's budget blueprint for next year. The $2.2 trillion package would increase deficits to record levels.

Mr. Bush's proposed budget for the 12-month period beginning October 1 would increase defense funding, accelerate tax cuts to bolster the weak economy, and overhaul some of the government's largest social programs.

Although the budget seeks to limit many other government programs, it projects the deficit will hit a record high of more than $300 billion this year, and more than a trillion dollars over the next five years.

That has Democrats seething. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said in a written statement that the budget plan 'confirms that President Bush is leading the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history.'

Echoing those comments is Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee.

"I think this budget is breathtaking in its lack of fiscal responsibility," he said. "This president's plan is plunging us deep into deficit, deep into debt."

The president's budget was delivered to Congress Monday morning, marking the start of months of partisan debate in the House and Senate.

Democrats are especially critical of Mr. Bush's tax cut proposals, saying the country cannot afford them when the nation is preparing for a possible war against Iraq.

But the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Republican Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma, says Mr. Bush's budget is exactly what the country needs.

"We will never balance the budget, if we do not grow the economy and show fiscal discipline," he said. "This budget tries to do both."

Administration officials are to discuss the president's budget proposals at several House and Senate hearings on Tuesday.