Democrats Balk at Cuts for Katrina Costs

The House Democrats are balking at budget cuts to offset mounting Hurricane Katrina costs and the St. Louis Post Dispatch is openly assisting the democrats with the usual spin. Both the House and the Senate will vote for budget cuts this week:

Democrats charge that Republicans are trying to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the needy, the very people who most need relief in the face of higher gasoline prices and expected higher heating bills, both made worse by Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

The whole idea of “offsets” is an insult, they say. Republicans didn’t holler offsets when Congress allocated an additional $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Democrats argue, or when Republicans pushed through a pork-laden energy bill earlier this year.

“Why are we trying to find offsets for rebuilding Biloxi but not the cost of rebuilding Baghdad?” Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis, asked.

Republicans are just using Katrina as an excuse to slash programs they don’t particularly like, Democrats say.

But Republicans say the facts are that Uncle Sam’s pockets are only so deep, and Congress has to make spending choices when the nation’s budget is stretched thin. Additionally, they argue, many of the cuts being made are to squeeze fat from programs that aren’t functioning efficiently.

But, a closer look at the cuts gives a different picture:

Republicans hope to raise an additional $9 billion by increasing employers’ premiums for insuring pension plans to $47.75 from $19 per employee per year.

In the House, the Republican leadership had first planned to chop $35 billion from the budget, but this week, it will try to bring to a vote a plan to increase that figure to $50 billion.

On the Energy and Commerce Committee, where Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, serves, Republicans have designated about $12 billion in cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

Akin said his party is trying to make the most of the cuts by rooting out waste, fraud and abuse.

“Like food stamps,” he said, “it turns out we’re giving food stamps to illegal immigrants. I have sympathy for illegal immigrants, but I’m not sure I want to give food stamps to them.”

While Democrats say Congress could generate almost $70 billion if it halted the extension of the tax cuts, Republicans appear steadfast in their resolve to keep them going.

This ought to shape up to be a classic liberal-conservative battle this week. Hopefully, there are enough conservatives to get these cuts passed.
Glenn Reynolds has more on the spending cuts package.

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