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Bush Confident Of Reaching Budget Deal With Congress January 6, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News, White House.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–President George W. Bush, seeking the upper hand in his dealings with the Democrats now running Congress, asked lawmakers Saturday to join him in balancing the budget within five years and cut thousands of pet projects from future spending bills.

“I’m confident that we can find common ground,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “By holding the line on spending and continuing our pro-growth policies, we can balance the budget and address the most urgent needs of our nation.”

Top Democrats have reacted cautiously – or not at all – to Bush’s budget plan, which assumes Congress will renew tax rate cuts passed in 2001 and maintain tax cuts on investments, inheritances and many other items. They say Bush’s tax agenda is tilted in favor of upper-income taxpayers and argue that at least some of the cuts need to be rolled back if a broader agreement on the budget can ever be reached.

Bush also is hopeful there can be a bipartisan agreement on reforming the much-maligned practice of “earmarking” home district projects in spending bills.

“Earmarks are spending provisions that are often slipped into bills at the last minute – so they rarely get debated or discussed,” Bush said. “Many earmarks divert precious funds away from vital priorities like national defense and education to wasteful pork-barrel projects.”

Democrats are poised to pass some modest reforms of the earmark process, but they fall short of several steps Bush proposed Wednesday.

The Democratic reforms will extend a GOP-passed rule requiring the names of lawmakers sponsoring earmarks to be listed in reports accompanying spending bills. Democrats also have announced a one-year moratorium on lawmakers’ pet projects as they clean up $463 billion worth of unfinished spending bills for the current 2007 budget year.

“I believe we can do more,” Bush said.

He said Democrats should adopt earmark reforms requiring full disclosure of the sponsors, the costs, the recipients and the justifications for every earmark. The president also said that after the current moratorium, the cost of earmarks should be cut in half from 2006 levels of more than $16 billion.

“These commonsense reforms will help prevent billions of taxpayers’ dollars from being spent on unnecessary earmarks,” he said.

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