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Budget Politics

"The heat flared up immediately Monday as Republicans lined up squarely behind Bush's budget... while Democrats castigated it as both heartless and fiscally irresponsible," says the Los Angeles Times.  "The sharp divide seemed to shatter the spirit of bipartisanship that both parties had cultivated since the Democrats captured control of Congress in November's elections." 

USA Today on Democrats' charge that Bush's budget is "disconnected from reality:" "Bush eliminates the $248 billion budget deficit by leaving out three critical factors: The budget doesn't project war costs beyond 2009.  It underestimates future domestic spending.  And it assumes that the alternative minimum tax will raise taxes on tens of millions of middle-income taxpayers after this year, even though both parties have said they won't let that happen.  The AMT is intended to ensure that wealthy Americans cannot avoid all taxes." 

The Financial Times zeroes in on likely Democratic opposition to Bush's effort to make "greater means-testing for middle-class benefits a central part of his proposals to address entitlement reform." 

A New York Times analysis notes that, in theory, Bush's budget presents Democrats "their first real opportunity to rewrite the administration's policies, especially on tax cuts, that they have been attacking for six years.  But in practice, Democrats know that the only way they can find the revenue to restore the administration's proposed spending cuts would be to cut back on military spending, delay their stated intentions to balance the budget or rescind the Bush tax cuts in future years.  They are not especially eager to do any of these."  

"While the spending blueprint met resistance from Democrats, it appeared to shore up the president's position with conservatives in his own party, who have been deeply unhappy with the growth of federal spending over the past six years," the Washington Post reports.  "In comments to reporters yesterday, Bush emphasized his desire to reduce the number of congressional pork-barrel projects, known as earmarks, and acquire a line-term veto -- favorite initiatives of fiscal conservatives." 

Roll Call suggests that one hurdle faced by White House budget director Rob Portman and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson in selling Bush's budget to congressional Democrats is that from Democrats' perspective, even when Administration staff say everything's on the table, Bush and Vice President Cheney undermine what the staffers say. 

The Wall Street Journal says Bush's budget contains some "modest" proposals "to restrain the wealth gap, particularly by offering new tax breaks to help the uninsured buy health insurance, but... little to fundamentally strengthen existing government efforts to alter the distribution of income...  Rather than using the tax code to redistribute income more than it does already, Mr. Bush's budget looks to address inequality largely by helping people afford health insurance and providing more money for education, including increased Pell grants for college." 

The Dallas Morning News reports that supporters of a fence across the US-Mexico border aren't pleased with Bush's budget, which only gives them enough funding to build half a fence.