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Democrats Urge Bush To Exercise 'Fiscal Responsibilty'

by Leroy Baker,, New York

30 January 2007

Democratic Congressional leaders have urged President George W. Bush to exercise more fiscal responsibility in his budget, and to abandon the "reckless" policies that they say have created a mountain of debt for the US government.

Democrats say that Bush's budgets over the past six years have added $3 trillion to the federal debt, and a group of senior Party lawmakers have sent a letter to the President calling on him to show more fiscal restraint. With the retirement of the first baby boomers next year, the Democrats expect "new and substantial pressures" to be placed on the Federal budget and say that "shared sacrifices" must be made to tackle future fiscal challenges.

"It is clear we need to change course," stated the letter, which was signed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, and House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt.

The letter goes on to set out four basic principles, compliance with which would demonstrate Bush's "commitment to fiscal responsibility and his willingness to work in a constructive manner with Congress". These principles stipulate that the budget should: account realistically for projected federal costs; should realistically project short- and long-term deficits; provide detail throughout the entire budget period so that the choices required to meet the budget goals are clear; and be based on fiscal discipline that is sustained over the long term.

“In order to reverse our nation’s fiscal course, both parties must understand that difficult choices and shared sacrifices must be made. Your upcoming budget submission provides an important marker for demonstrating a shared commitment to fiscal responsibility," argued the letter.

"Clearly, Democrats and Republicans will disagree about particular priorities, and we will need to negotiate our differences in deciding how to allocate scarce resources. But, as a first step, we all should be able to agree on these basic principles of fiscal responsibility," the lawmakers added, concluding:

"Your upcoming budget provides both the Congress and the Administration with an important opportunity to begin a dialogue on budget priorities and fiscal discipline that is open and transparent. We hope you will seize this opportunity, and ensure that your budget complies with these basic principles. In our view, this would represent an important first step toward a much-needed bipartisan agreement to address our nation’s fiscal challenges."

Under Democratic leadership, the House has already voted to reinstate 'paygo' rules which require that tax cuts have corresponding cuts in government spending or increases in taxes elsewhere to pay for them. This was part of a package of ethical and budget rules aimed at making the legislative process more transparent, and also contained measures to curb the ability of lawmakers to insert narrowly-targeted special interest tax breaks known as 'earmarks' into legislation by requiring the publication of the names of Congressmen requesting them.

Democrats have long argued for the restoration of paygo rules, worried that President Bush's policy of cutting taxes, combined with escalating military spending is storing up problems for future generations by increasing the federal debt and deficit levels.

"This rules package restores fiscal discipline by reinstating the budget rules that helped us produce record budget surpluses in the 1990s and which previously were supported on a bipartisan basis," House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D - Maryland) told the House.

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