Congressional Democrats assail Republican debt reduction proposal
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A day after congressional Republicans proposed using 90 percent of this year's budget surplus to pay down the national debt, Democrats accused them of throwing out the plan as a last-ditch effort to appeal to American voters because their tax cut plans aren't selling on the campaign trail.
"The American people aren't buying these huge tax cuts. Republicans are
scrambling to get away from them now, they're trying to find a way to paint
themselves with a new image and I don't think this is going to be successful,"
said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota.
Following a Capitol Hill meeting with White House economic officials, congressional Democrats told reporters the Republican plan could dip into the Medicare and Social Security surpluses.
National Economic Advisor Gene Sperling warned that financial markets need
a long-term plan to ensure stability and growth, and the Republican debt
reduction plan has a duration of only one year.
Republican leaders rejected Democratic criticism that tax cuts are not
appealing to American voters, but admitted they did shift strategy from
spending surplus dollars on tax cuts to debt reduction because they can't
overcome the president's veto.
It's the next best thing," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert,
R-Illinois. "We'll soon have a new president, a new Congress, let's do what we can now to prevent this money from being spent."
In line with their new strategy to paint Democrats as the builders of
roadblocks to compromise, GOP lawmakers tried to strike a cooperative tone,
saying they simply wanted to get the ball rolling with this plan.
"We're not looking for a fight," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott,
R-Mississippi. "We're looking for a reasonable middle ground."
Republicans said they were disappointed with the Democrats' response,
saying the president seemed "intrigued" with it at Tuesday's bipartisan
"It's just pure phony politics. And perhaps they're frightened with the
idea that we have an easy message here that's simple and right and probably,
probably the American people will like it very, very much," said Senate Budget
Chairman Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico.
"We're here to wrap up a session and get our job done and do it in a way
that will not harm the economy of America, and anybody who would contend this
harms the American economy has just got to be smoking pot," Domenici said.