Dispatches > The Buzz

Flash Traffic

Political buzz from Washington

Issue: "The Mormon Olympics," Feb. 16, 2002

Six in 10 Americans, according to a new Gallup poll, support the president's approach to the budget: giving top priority to the military. But if a vote were held right now, President Bush's new $2.1 trillion budget would not pass in Congress-and it's not just because of substantial Democratic opposition. To be sure, Senate leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.)-who just sank the president's tax cut and economic stimulus package-will make sure the Bush plan is defeated in the Senate. And not a single Democrat will vote for the Bush plan in the House. But House Republicans are deeply opposed to the president's willingness to allow a deficit of up to $80 billion. White House talking points claim "the 2002 deficit is expected to be 1 percent of the GDP-significantly lower than the deficits of 3-6 percent during the previous recessions in the last 40 years." But administration officials also admit the budget will be out of balance until "2004 or 2005." That's not acceptable to the GOP conference, most of whose members are self-proclaimed "deficit hawks." The Gingrich Class of '94, for example, is dead-set against any red ink. They fear being tarred in the mid-term elections with the charge that Republicans are responsible for ballooning the debt. Fifty-one percent of Americans polled by Gallup say it's OK to run a deficit if necessary. But a full 46 percent say Congress must insist on balancing the budget. With a razor-thin majority, House GOP leaders can't afford any defections on key fiscal votes. So they're launching a series of "budget listening sessions" to find out just what their members will support. Over the next three weeks, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay and Deputy Whip Roy Blunt will meet with GOP members to sound out problem areas and try to develop some consensus. Central to the Bush plan is the largest increase in defense spending in 20 years. Total defense spending will hit $369 billion, up 12 percent. The plan includes almost $40 billion for homeland security, plus a new $10 billion for the war on terrorism-on top of pay raises for the troops, new high-tech weaponry, and protection against biological and chemical attacks. Growth for discretionary spending programs outside defense and homeland security is held to just 2 percent. And the administration proposes $9.3 billion more for unemployment benefits to help people ride out the recession and get back on their feet.

Republican leaders are carefully monitoring the potential political fallout from the Enron meltdown as Democrats try to pin blame on the GOP, and particularly on the Bush administration. But GOP strategists believe the country accurately sees this as a business scandal, not a political one, despite Enron's obvious financial connection to the GOP. Since 1990, Enron has given nearly $6 million to political candidates and parties, and Republicans received 74 percent of that money, while Democrats received only 26 percent, reports OpenSecrets.org. From 1989 to 2001, Enron chief Kenneth Lay and his wife gave $882,580 in political contributions, of which Republicans received $793,110.

Former President Ronald Reagan turned 91 on Feb. 6, and on that day 25 states passed proclamations honoring the man who helped defeat the Evil Empire and bring the U.S. economy roaring back. Conservative activist Grover Norquist believes he deserves better: the Gipper's likeness on Mt. Rushmore. Norquist's Reagan Legacy Project helped persuade Congress to rename Washington's National Airport (now Reagan National Airport). Fourteen states have named roads, bridges, highways, and schools after the Gipper. Oklahoma is gearing up to put Reagan's name on a courthouse. The project's next mission: putting Reagan's face on the $10 bill. When Reagan passes away, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will introduce new legislation to make Reagan part of our currency.

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Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg


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