Wednesday, September 21, 2005

GOP Divided Over Storm Relief Financing

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The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee refused to rule out increasing taxes yesterday as he and many of his GOP colleagues called for offsets to temper the effect of the next round of federal spending for disaster relief in the Gulf Coast.

"We've got two sides to the ledger," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). "I'm willing to look at a revenue solution ...

Though Gregg declined to specify or rule out any solution, there are limited options for generating revenue, many of which involve deferring expected tax cuts or increasing taxes in a targeted or across-the-board fashion.

Conservatives demanded accountability and offsets in the next package of spending for the recovery from Hurricane Katrina, but many of them, including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), scoffed at tax increases.

"The so-called Katrina tax hikes are not about Katrina; they're about tax hikes and will only serve to balloon the oversized, under-responsive emergency-management system that broke down three weeks ago in the wake of the hurricane," DeLay said in a House floor speech, according to prepared remarks provided by his office.

Like DeLay, most Republicans who called for offsets focused solely on spending.

Many said they would like to see offsets in the form of reductions in government "waste, fraud and abuse."

Others called for increasing the amount Congress plans to cut from mandatory programs through budget reconciliation --- currently $35 billion over five years --- later in the year.

That could lead to funding Katrina recovery through more severe cuts to programs aimed at the poor and elderly.

Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps are among the programs on the chopping block in a reconciliation process that was already pushed back after Katrina hit.

Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) repeated his call for a commission to review government programs, similar to the one that closes and realigns military bases.

Brownback introduced legislation in 2002 that would create such a panel, called the Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies.

John Sununu (R-N.H.) said tax increases could slow the economy, but he said he might support "rethinking" business incentives in the recently enacted energy law, a position he has long advocated.

He did say he would not request the repeal of highway projects in his own district after Pelosi volunteered cutting her own transportation projects to help foot the cleanup costs.

One Senate Republican aide pointed out that many of the suggestions for offsets are either unrealistic or would hardly make a dent in the spending.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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