Lawmakers Spread the Blame for Record Deficit

Posted July 15, 2003 at 3:55pm

Amid revelations that the national deficit will soar to a record $455 billion this year, Republicans and Democrats took turns pointing fingers at each other while one prominent GOP lawmaker aimed his criticism at the White House.

House Budget Chairman Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) sounded a message of fiscal restraint in light of the Bush administration’s budget update, which assumes all White House proposals will be enacted, in a briefing for reporters Tuesday.

“Today we don’t have a lot of surprises,” Nussle said about the projection, which is 50 percent more than the administration predicted at the beginning of the year.

“Deficits do matter,” he declared. “Spending-driven deficits matter even more.”

Given that Republicans control both chambers of Congress as well as the White House, Nussle said his plea to rein in spending is aimed at everyone.

“Sometimes, the family dinner conversation is the hardest,” he said, explaining that that he is talking to appropriators, Ways and Means members, the Pentagon, the Senate, President Bush and his Democratic colleagues when he says spending must be curbed.

Nussle implored Congress not to go above the allocations agreed to in the fiscal 2004 budget outline and to offset any additional spending.

“The administration should be the first to step forward with their list of ideas” of what to cut from the almost $2 billion emergency spending bill for disaster relief the Senate passed last week.

But he did not blame Bush’s $1.35 trillion 2001 tax cut or the recently enacted $350 billion tax cut.

“Tax cuts do not cause deficits,” Nussle said. “You do not have to borrow money to cut taxes.”

Democrats, however, placed the blame squarely on the tax cuts.

“The deficit is the result mainly of massive irresponsible tax cuts for the richest Americans and the lack of any real plan to boost the economy and put people back to work,” Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said.

Rep. John Spratt (D-S.C.), ranking member of the Budget Committee, called for a budget summit, similar to the one held in 1991, in which leaders from both parties would meet with President Bush to find a solution for the deficit.

And he chastised Bush for not offering a resolution to the nation’s burgeoning debt.

“The problem that I have with the president’s presentation today is that there was no shame, no shock and no solution,” he said.

Nussle charged Democrats with maintaining a double standard, saying they complain about deficits out of one side of their mouth while demanding more spending for their domestic priorities on the other.

“The hypocrisy is rampant,” he said.

Rangel said Bush and Congressional Republicans are blaming unexpected costs such as the war, instead of the tax cuts.

“There is no excuse for a $450 billion record deficit this year,” Rangel said. “September 11th didn’t give us that deficit. The poor people didn’t give us that deficit. The war in Iraq didn’t even give us that deficit.”