Bush, Congress Agree on 4.9% Spending Boost
The White House and congressional negotiators agreed yesterday on a "non-binding" budget deal that would boost discretionary spending 4.9% next year, a figure "greater" than President Bush had proposed but less than "what most Democrats said was needed to pay for domestic programs," including some health care initiatives, the New York Times reports. While Democratic leaders "criticized" the agreement, the deal "won the support" of a "handful" of "moderate" Democrats -- including Sens. John Breaux (D-La.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) -- votes that Bush "needs" to move the measure through the evenly divided Senate. The agreement, the "final major piece" of Bush's FY 2002 budget, would increase discretionary spending next year to $666.6 billion, up from $635.4 billion this year, with $341.8 billion earmarked for domestic programs. In addition, the budget would provide up to $300 billion over the next decade for adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare (Stevenson/Rosenbaum, New York Times, 5/3). The $300 billion figure would almost "double" the funding Bush had proposed for a drug benefit (Hitt/Cummings, Wall Street Journal, 5/3). In addition, the budget would include an 11-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut, less than the 10-year, $1.6 trillion reduction that Bush had originally proposed (Hosler, Baltimore Sun, 5/3). At the White House yesterday, Bush "hailed" the budget agreement as a "victory." He said, "It was time to come together to put a good budget together on behalf of the American people. What we're talking about is not partisan politics, but good budget politics, good budget policy" (Wall Street Journal, 5/3). The House and Senate will likely approve the measure today (New York Times, 5/3).