US President George W. Bush yesterday proposed more than $700 billion in new spending for the US military much of it for the Iraq War in a budget that would curb domestic programs from health to education.
Bush also warned that even more spending for Iraq could be needed, as he unveiled a $2.9 trillion budget for fiscal 2008 certain to stoke anger among Democrats already braced for "sticker shock" over the war tab.
The costs of the 4-year-old war are inching toward a staggering $1 trillion mark. If Congress approves the war-funding request, the United States will have spent $661.9 billion on combat in Iraq, Afghanistan and related activities, the administration said.
On the domestic front, Bush called for making his 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent and said it could be done while shifting the budget to surplus by 2012.
The spending plan would hold growth in domestic discretionary spending to 1 percent. After accounting for inflation of 2.5 percent, that rise would amount to a cut in programs ranging from labor to education and cleaning up the environment.
"My formula for a balanced budget reflects the priorities of our country at this moment in its history, protecting the homeland and fighting terrorism, keeping the economy strong with low taxes and keeping spending under control," Bush said in a statement.
But Democrats, now in control of the House of Representatives and the Senate, are sure to question Bush's upbeat fiscal projections.
"The president's budget is filled with debt and deception, disconnected from reality, and continues to move America in the wrong direction," said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat.
"This administration has the worst fiscal record in history and this budget does nothing to change that," Conrad added.
Bush's budget request will kick off weeks of hearings on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers will try to produce their own version of a budget blueprint by spring.
The bulk of Bush's proposed savings would come in politically sensitive health programs. Bush would squeeze $66 billion over five years in savings from Medicare and $12 billion from the Medicaid health program for the poor.
If embraced by Congress, Bush's budget would authorize spending $716.5 billion on defense between now and September 30, 2008, including $235.1 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Spending for diplomatic operations would boost the total to $245 billion.
Bush is requesting $481 billion for the regular Pentagon budget, an increase of more than 10 percent. Some of that will pay for a permanent increase in the size of the military Bush called for late last year.
The White House said it will weigh whether to seek even more war funding. "As activity on the ground evolves, the administration may adjust the requested amount," it said.
Source: China Daily/Agencies