TOPICS > Politics

The Budget Battle

May 4, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT


KWAME HOLMAN: This week brought movement on four issues that were at the center of President Bush’s election campaign. The President launched his plan for moving toward a missile defense network using land, sea and air-based systems to intercept attack missiles in flight.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The preliminary work has produced some promising options for advanced sensors and interceptors that may provide this capability.

KWAME HOLMAN: Getting funding for the missile system through congress may be difficult. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle was among the immediate critics of the president’s plan.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: We’re worried about committing additional resources to a system that just hasn’t worked. I mean, this is one of the biggest turkeys I’ve seen to date. And it is a turkey in large measure because there has not been a shred of evidence that this works.

KWAME HOLMAN: The President said he will send emissaries to meet with allies to critics of his plan that it could contribute to an arms race. This week, the President also acted on his promise to reform the Social Security system. He appointed a 16-member commission to study how best to rescue the system from future insolvency. It will be led by former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Richard Parsons, an AOL-Time Warner executive. The commission will report back in September. The President said he hopes its recommendations will include a plan to let younger workers invest their Social Security taxes in the stock market.

SPOKESMAN: The Senator from Maine.

KWAME HOLMAN: Also this week, the top domestic initiative of the President’s campaign, a package of elementary and secondary school reforms finally went to the Senate floor. Senators from both parties added money to the President’s proposal. That’s expected to improve chances for a strong bipartisan vote in favor of the reforms which would: Test children annually in grades three through eight in reading and math; give school districts more control over the use of federal funds; allow parents to spend federal funds on tutoring services for their youngsters; and give them the right to transfer their children out of a failing public school and into a better performing public school.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: This is a great day for the American people and the American taxpayer.

KWAME HOLMAN: The President seemed most pleased this week to be able to announce agreement with congressional lea on the tax cut he promised during his campaign. Even though at about $1.25 over ten years, it was below the even though at about $1.25 trillion over ten years, it was below the President’s original mark.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I congratulate the Senate and the House, Republicans and Democrats who have worked so hard to achieve this bipartisan agreement.

KWAME HOLMAN: However, plans by congressional Republicans to speed passing only the outlines of the tax cuts and spending initiatives suddenly collapsed this morning. Shortly before 2 AM, Porter Goss told members two pages of the budget report were missing and that debate and the vote on the budget would have to be postponed.

REP. PORTER GOSS: We’re all saddened that we have not been able to complete all the business we had originally anticipated for today because of the complexity of the business and the procedures of working out conference reports with our colleagues in the other body.

KWAME HOLMAN: Despite the late hour, Democrat Barney Frank would not let the issue rest.

REP. BARNEY FRANK: I think we ought to be clear. We have here a problem not of complexity, but of basic physics. The majority has, as many of us have said for sometime, constructed a budget in which the whole is significantly smaller than the sum of the parts. And in the process of trying to parts in that small whole, apparently things came apart. It is fortunate that members’ time was so wasted all day and that we have accomplished nothing and we have to come back next week. I hope you find the pages. I hope you master the context of complexity of this and I hope this kind of performance is not again repeated.

KWAME HOLMAN: First term Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle eventually stepped forward to take the blame.

REP. JIM NUSSLE: I’m the chairman of the Budget Committee. This is a conference report at least from the House perspective that I’m responsible for filing and filing correctly. That was not done. That’s my responsibility. Two pages were missing. Hey, you know, I’m not exactly sure I can tell you precisely how those two pages were missing. The fact is they were missing when they were filed. You can blame everything from computers to staff. It doesn’t matter. It was my responsibility and I’m the person….

KWAME HOLMAN: Both the House and the Senate rescheduled their becoming votes for Tuesday.