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Daschle takes aim at White House agenda

Tom Daschle
Daschle calls tax cut a "time bomb. This is going to be $4-to-$5 trillion when it is fully implemented."  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The soon-to-be leader of the Senate, Tom Daschle, took aim at the White House's political agenda Sunday, expressing reservations about its programs for energy, missile defense and Social Security reform, as well as possible "far-right" judicial nominees.

But White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card insisted that President Bush would not abandon his agenda because of the impending shift in control of the Senate, which he called "significant" but "not earth-shattering."

The South Dakota Democrat said on NBC's Meet The Press the Bush administration's plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration is dead.

Further, Daschle said, he does not support Bush's call for increased development of nuclear power.

"I don't think that this is the right time. Until we deal with how we're going to confront the nuclear waste issue, I think it would be impossible for us to expand nuclear power," he said.

On the tax cut package passed Saturday, he said if it triggers deficits, "We may want to look at ways at which to look at the tax cut in the future."

"This is great short-term politics. It is disastrous long-term policy," Daschle said of the tax cut. "This is an exploding time bomb. This is going to be $4-to-$5 trillion when it is fully implemented."

Nevertheless, Democrats do not plan to do anything in the short term to undo the tax cut program, Daschle said.

Daschle reiterated his opposition to the Social Security privatization plan outlined by the president and said deployment of a missile defense system would be "premature."

He said Democrats would push for a patients' bill of rights that allows patients to sue their health maintenance organizations -- something Bush has opposed -- and that Democrats would take a hard look at any "far-right" judicial nominees that Bush sends to Capitol Hill.

"We want to support justices who represent the mainstream," he said. "I don't want to see far-left judges. I don't want to see far-right judges."

At the same time, Daschle suggested the president call lawmakers together for a bipartisan summit. He said Democrats would do their "level best" to keep a bipartisan tone, despite being "worried about the climate and the attitude on the other side."

Appearing on CBS's Face The Nation, Card responded to Daschle's comments by saying: "It sounds to me like he doesn't have an agenda other than an agenda of no."

"This should not be about just saying no to any agenda that the president puts forward. The president's agenda is really the American agenda. He campaigned on it, the people expect him to put it forward and he will," Card said.

"If there's a will to get things done, there is a way to get things done. This president has both the will and the way, and we hope the Senate and the House leadership will as well," he said.

Daschle, the Senate minority leader, will become the next majority leader because Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont announced Thursday he was leaving the GOP to become an independent, a move that will tilt control of the Senate to the Democrats.

Card denied reports the White House might have helped push Jeffords out of the party by trying to punish him for opposing the president's tax cuts, but he conceded there are lessons to be learned.

"I think I need to do a better job of communicating with people on Capitol Hill," he said. "But the president has done nothing wrong."

• The White House
• Office of Management and Budget
• Congressional Budget Office

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