Bush's Final Budget Proposal: $3.1 Trillion President Bush sends Congress his final budget — a $3.1 trillion proposal for fiscal 2009. The plan purports to balance the budget by 2012, while not counting war costs or another inevitable fix to the alternative minimum tax. Congress is expected to put up a fight — or just wait for the next president.
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Brian Naylor reports on 'All Things Considered'

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Bush's Final Budget Proposal: $3.1 Trillion

Brian Naylor reports on 'All Things Considered'

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

For the eighth and final time, President Bush sent his budget to Congress today. And for the first time, it was sent electronically, a move, the president said, would save paper, trees and money. In other ways, as far Democrats are concerned, it's the same old budget, and likely to be ignored.

NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR: The president's submission of his budget to Congress is a February ritual in Washington. The president invariably pronounces his spending plan economically sound and the best course of action for lawmakers to follow, and it's then roundly denounced by his political opposition in Congress.

Both sides follow their scripts to the letter today. President Bush, at a cabinet meeting, held up a computer tablet as he talked about the $3.1-trillion proposal.

GEORGE W: It's normally an innovative budget and that is coming to Congress over the Internet. It's a budget that balances - gets to balance in 2012 and saves taxpayers money.

NAYLOR: The president wants a 7.5 percent increase to some $515 billion for the Pentagon, not including funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also wants 775 million more for security at the border with Mexico. There's more money for education programs tying to the No Child Left Behind Act. But other education programs face elimination; indeed, non-defense domestic spending is effectively frozen at current levels. Still, there would be a $407-billion deficit for next year.

Budget Director Jim Nussle says that's okay because that includes the cost of an economic stimulus proposal Congress has drafting.

JIM NUSSLE: That bipartisan bill will raise the deficit by $145 billion, and obviously, that will have an impact. But we believe that this uptick is temporary and is also a manageable budget deficit.

NAYLOR: The White House projects that the budget will be balanced by 2012, but that's based on a number of unlikely assumptions. The president has called for a reduction in the growth of Medicare and Medicaid by nearly $200 billion over the next five years, which Congress is expected to reject. The president's budget includes no money for the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan after next year.

Democrat Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, made a little joke out of the president's e-budget.

KENT CONRAD: You saw that the president did not himself print budgets this year, my answer when asked, why he did that, is I indicated perhaps he ran out of red ink because that's what he's left us with. He's left us with an ocean of red ink. The next president is going to inherit a fiscal disaster of stunning proportion.

NAYLOR: Conrad indicated that few of the president's proposed cuts are likely to survive when Democrats lay out their spending priorities in a budget next month.

CONRAD: There will be substantial differences. We're not going to cut the COPPS program 100 percent. We're not going to cut Weatherization Assistance 100 percent. Those aren't the priorities of the American people.

NAYLOR: Last year, the president had some success enforcing Democrats in Congress to adopt his overall spending figures if not his specific budget proposals.

This year, says, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrats are prepared to wait him out.

HARRY REID: The president really had us over barrel last year on the appropriation bills, but he doesn't have all the barrel issue because either President Clinton or Obama will be the president in less than a year.

NAYLOR: And while Reid is clearly biased in his prediction, with a lame-duck president, Congress is likely to ignore Mr. Bush's spending plan and may well pass a series of temporary spending bills to keep the government operating until the next president submits his or her budget.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.

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