Sen. Tom Daschle explains why some on Capitol Hill aren't satisfied with budget deal
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, says President Bush was "dragged kicking and screaming" into the budget agreement that Congress is to vote on today and is now claiming victory.
Daschle says the budget plan cuts taxes too much and doesn't provide enough funds for education, or reducing the debt.
CNN's Jeanne Meserve interviewed the senator on Thursday in Washington.
Meserve: Senator, let me start it right off the bat with Social Security. The president said yesterday that under the present Social Security system, Americans might as well be stuffing their money in mattresses. Why not take a good, hard, serious look at privatization?
Daschle: All you have to do, Jeanne, is to look at what happened in the market in the last year. I don't want to see our people dependent upon the ups and downs, the dramatic changes that occur in the marketplace every year.
I want them to be able to invest in the market; that's something that is part of America, part of our economy. But to invest Social Security is something that I think runs contrary to everything we know. Social Security has been a very, very positive and constructive part of retirement. It ought to stay that way.
Meserve: Many Americans are lucky enough to, in addition to having Social Security, have a 401(k). Yesterday, the House increased the contribution limit. Will the Senate do the same -- is there the money to do it?
Daschle: That's exactly the question: Do we have the money to do many of these things? That's part of the budget consideration. We think that if we're prudent, and if we're balanced, we ought to have money for retirement. That is exactly the approach many of us have suggested: Let's save Social Security, let's not mess with it; let's keep it the kind of conservative investment it is, but let's encourage people to invest in the market through 401(k)s. This bill would do it, and I hope we have room for it in the budget.
Meserve: What are some of the other programs that you think this budget is going to put in jeopardy?
Daschle: There's no doubt that this budget will gut education. We are very concerned. We're debating education as we speak, and the real question is whether or not we have the money for school construction, whether we have the money to reduce class size, or whether we have the money for the kinds of things that we want to do to help disadvantaged children. The Republicans are now telling us we don't have the money for education, yet we have the $69 billion in tax cuts that they want to put out, mostly at the top of the income scales.
Meserve: You're saying the tax cut is too big and that we're not spending enough. You're sounding like the stereotypical tax-and-spend Democrat we've heard so much about.
Daschle: We're for -- very clearly -- a tax cut. What we want to do, though, is to ensure that we have the money to do the other kinds of investments that are important too. We don't want to be borrow-and-spend, like Republicans appear to be interested in being; we want to be the fiscally prudent people that we have been over the last several years, reducing the public debt, investing in education, protecting Social Security and Medicare, but providing tax cut as well.
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