Hoyer Questions GOP’s Dedication to Budgetary Values as Democrats Ready Alternative

Posted March 20, 2003 at 4:05pm

Even though the parties have come together in support of U.S. troops fighting in the Persian Gulf, partisanship remains in the budget fight.

As both chambers debate their respective budget resolutions Thursday, House Democrats continued to hammer Republicans on their priorities.

“I understand that on a day like today, the debate over the federal budget may look unimportant,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “But … the budget is a statement of our priorities and values. Regrettably, the House GOP budget is an appalling betrayal of those values. And nowhere is this more true than in the proposal for homeland security.”

The Republican resolution that is currently on the floor takes money from local police and fire department programs, such as COPS grants, to boost funding for emergency personnel, he charged.

“In sharp contrast, the Democratic budget alternative includes $10 billion this year for state and local governments for homeland security,” Hoyer said. “Furthermore, our budget plan would provide $24 billion more for homeland security than the GOP budget over the next 10 years.”

“We trust the president’s and Secretary [of Homeland Security Tom] Ridge’s judgment on this matter and will continue to,” said Jonathan Grella, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). “It’s interesting that the same Democrats who fought us on creating the Department of Homeland Security … are now trying to outfox us on the issue … but no one is buying it.”

But Hoyer pre-empted that defense earlier, saying Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) initially proposed the department.

Grella added that Democrats’ real issue is they want more money to spend.

“They’re cloaking their penchant for more spending” by complaining about homeland security levels, he said.

Democrats also accused Republicans of being out of touch with the needs and realities that face local police, fire and medical personnel who would be the first to respond to any terrorist attack.

“I feel like I’m living in fantasy land today in the House,” Rep. Martin Sabo (D-Minn.) said.

Cutting taxes for the most affluent while taking money away from veterans programs as the nation is at war is unbelievable, he said.

“But that is [the Republican] view of the world,” he said.

Democrats plan to offer a substitute amendment to the GOP budget resolution, but it is unlikely to pass.

Moderate Republicans also have expressed dissatisfaction with their party’s resolution, which also may have trouble clearing the chamber as is.