WASHINGTON - It's a busy, unhappy budget week on Capitol Hill. At a time when Republicans are eager to prove their mettle on spending restraint, their deeds are falling far short of their election-year promises.
The House is poised to pad the deficit by passing $91 billion in debt-financed funding for the war in Iraq and for hurricane relief. Meanwhile, the Senate is working on a budget plan shorn of tax and spending cuts wanted by President Bush. To top it all off, by week's end the Senate must vote on permitting the federal debt to grow by $781 billion to avoid a disastrous government default. The measure would allow the debt to grow to almost $9 trillion -- $3 trillion more than when Bush took office. "People are not enthusiastic," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Just this past weekend, a bevy of GOP presidential aspirants and southern politicians trooped to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, promising to be more thrifty with taxpayers' money. "We've been hit with unexpected challenges -- a recession, 9/11, homeland security, the war on terror, Katrina," Majority Leader Bill Frist told the GOP faithful in Memphis. "But they're not justification for a one-way ticket down a wayward path of wasteful Washington spending." Election-year political concerns have forced Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., to drop Bush's proposal to shave $36 billion from Medicare over five years from his plan.
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