Top Dems Blast 'Massive' Debt Hike, Inadequate Funding

Senate and House Democratic leaders today criticized President Bush's FY08 budget plan for the amount of debt it would create while shortchanging crucial programs. Senate Majority Leader Reid accused the administration of hiding "a massive increase in debt" and missplaced priorities. "The president insists on spending billion on $150,000 tax breaks for multimillionaires, at the expense of the middle class," Reid said in a statement. "Those are the wrong choices and the wrong priorities." Reid pledged to work with Bush and Republicans on the FY08 spending bills, but added that Democrats would produce a budget with fiscal discipline that also promotes health care, education and terrorism prevention. House Speaker Pelosi called Bush's budget "just more of the same fiscal irresponsibility and misplaced priorities; it takes our country in the wrong direction. The new funding requests for the war in Iraq submitted today give the American people no hope that President Bush has plans to reduce our military involvement in Iraq for the foreseeable future -- in fact, just the opposite." Pelosi noted that if Bush's requests are approved, spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost nearly $50 billion more this year than FY06, and $142 billion more in FY08. "These huge sums demand the most rigorous congressional scrutiny possible. Democrats will not give the President a blank check on Iraq," she said. Pelosi also challenged Bush's claim that his budget plan will lead to a surplus by FY12. "He leaves out major expenses, and the president simply does not balance the budget by 2012, as he claims," she said.

House Majority Leader Hoyer also expressed his displeasure in the budget's proposed tax cuts and fiscal discipline measures despite the White House's move away from what critics have in the past categorized as less that straightforward accounting. "While I am pleased that the administration generally seems to have dispensed with the budget gimmicks that characterized its past budgets, the fact is, this budget contemplates continued deficits and spiraling debt," said Hoyer, before pledging to fight for a budget that helps restore fiscal responsibility. Hoyer charged the administration with shortchanging key priorities while pushing for almost $2 trillion in deficit-financed tax cuts disproportionately benefiting the wealthiest taxpayers.

House Armed Services Chairman Skelton said Bush's proposed $716.5 billion in defense spending through FY08 was "staggering" and while the military had long needed an increase in funding, it deserves scrutiny. "We cannot provide an adequate national defense on the cheap, but neither can we afford to simply ratify the president's request without performing the due diligence and oversight our Constitution requires," Skelton said. The request, which includes $481.4 billion for the Defense Department for FY08, a $141.7 billion war supplemental for FY08 and a $93.4 billion war supplemental for FY07, was praised by Skelton for including the supplemental requests as part of Bush's budget for the first time. But the budget does not include some of what Democrat leaders had said they hoped it would include to ensure it was realistic, particularly a long-term fix for the alternative minimum tax. While the budget predicts a $239 billion deficit at the beginning of FY08 turning into a $61 billion surplus by FY12, the administration's request only includes an AMT fix for 2008, leaving the later costs out of the picture.