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Democrats Criticize Bush Budget

The newest Democrat in the U.S. Senate says President Bush's budget unfairly favors wealthier Americans at the expense of the middle class. President Bush used his weekly radio address to talk about changes in prescription drug coverage.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez says Republicans in Washington are ignoring the needs of working families. The Democrat says there is no better example than the $2.7- trillion budget President Bush has sent to Capitol Hill.

"This is a budget that does more than ignore the problems facing the middle class," said Bob Menendez. "It actually makes them worse. At the same time, the budget includes a wide variety of handouts to the president's special-interest friends, including billions of dollars of wasteful spending that would help add $4 trillion to our nation's debt."

Menendez was appointed in January by New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine to serve out the remainder of Corzine's Senate term. Menendez is running for a full six-year term in November. He used the Democrats' weekly radio address to continue his party's attack on Republicans linked to a lobbying scandal that involves members of both parties.

"Unfortunately, after initially claiming to have seen the light, the Republican congressional leadership is already running away from reform," he said. "Why? Because in truth, most Republicans just don't want it."

Menendez criticized proposed cuts in student loan programs, which he says will increase college costs.

Talking about his budget this past week in the state of New Hampshire, President Bush said changes in the student loan program have made it more efficient, and some of those savings have been put back into the pool of funds available for lending.

The president's budget boosts defense spending and makes cuts in domestic programs that he says will halve the size of the federal deficit by 2009.

In his weekly radio address, the president defended changes to a federal health care system known as Medicare. Since those changes began at the first of the year, there have been delays in registering older Americans for a prescription drug program and a backlog of calls to a Medicare help line for patients and pharmacists.

President Bush says there have been early challenges and his administration is working hard to make things run more smoothly.

"We're ensuring that drug plans have more up-to-date information on their beneficiaries, and we're improving data-sharing among Medicare, health plans, and the states," said President Bush. "We have also extended the transition period from 30 days to 90 days, to guarantee that seniors do not go without the medicine they need as they switch to a new drug plan."

President Bush says competition has lowered costs for both patients and the federal government.

Democratic Senator Menendez says the president's budget will increase health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs while expanding tax shelters for the wealthy.