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Bush to highlight waste, call for new budget priorities

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Tries for bulletproof budget

Unleashing GOP governors


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's budget speech next Tuesday will attack wasteful government spending and call upon Congress to cut some parts of the federal budget while increasing spending for education, scientific research and Medicare.

Senior administration officials tell CNN the speech will lay three goals for the American people:

  • Meeting spending priorities

  • Paying down government debt

  • Cutting taxes

Beyond that, advisers said, the president will warn Congress and the nation that it can no longer increase discretionary spending by 8 percent each year as it has in the last three years.

"Government spending recently has been somewhat profligate," a senior adviser said. "Government has been all things to all people with no priorities. And Republicans have been a part of that. The biggest threat to the economy is unchecked government spending."


This line of argument is meant to blunt criticism that Bush's $1.6 trillion tax cut over 10 years is too large. The White House will argue that recent spending increases indicate that if taxes are not cut, Washington will spend the money on all programs without establishing priorities. The president will argue to make room for a tax cut some Washington spending will have to stop.

Tries for bulletproof budget

The Bush team has tried to build a bulletproof budget -- one that reduces the rate of growth in some spending but increases spending on education, Medicare and medical research and protects all funds in the Social Security trust fund.

The White House has already outlined increases in education spending, an 11.5 percent boost for the Department of Education, the biggest increase for any cabinet department. Bush on Friday announced a $2.8 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health, a leading government research agency that has become a darling of Republicans and Democrats.

By withholding a bigger request for defense spending, the White House also is hoping it can avoid Democratic attacks that it is cutting domestic spending to fuel a new defense buildup.

Lastly, the packaging of the budget will reflect what White House advisers believe -- and exit polling data supports -- was a key advantage for Bush in the 2000 election: presenting the Bush-Gore contest as a choice between bigger government and smaller government.

Exit poll data and post-election polls by Democratic pollster Mark Penn show that voters in many key demographic groups -- males, suburbanites, independents and moderates -- who made up their mind in the last month of the campaign turned to Bush because they perceived Gore as favoring a bigger, more costly government.

"That was a key part of our message in the campaign and we will try to frame the budget and the choices we've made in that same way," said a senior adviser. "We want to change the budget debate in Washington. Drawing arbitrary lines on how much spending increases does not reflect a governing philosophy."

Unleashing GOP governors

As for specifics, advisers told CNN the president's budget would reduce some spending and change some priorities. One adviser said corporate subsidies under the Commerce Department would be reduced, although no specifics were provided. The adviser also said President Clinton's program to place 150,000 police officers on the streets would be changed.

"We will not continue to expand his program," the adviser said. "We will prioritize what's there by putting more police in schools."

Another adviser said Mr. Bush will increase spending to enforce federal gun laws. Clinton cut spending on this front for several years before boosting it in his last two budgets.

The White House also will enlist the support of Republican governors, who will join Democratic governors for a formal dinner at the White House on Sunday. GOP governors will be dispatched to sing the praises of the Bush budget to home state press outlets covering them in Washington and in interviews throughout their states after Bush's speech Tuesday.

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February 19, 2001

The White House
  •  U.S. President George W. Bush

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