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Daschle: Bush budget plan resembles Enron

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on Sunday compared the Bush administration's handling of the budget to the bankrupt Enron Corp.'s handling of its finances, drawing a sharp rebuke from his Republican counterpart.

The partisan sniping preceded President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday, when the administration will lay out its goals for the year.

With a midterm election fast approaching, Democrats and Republicans alike are trying to portray their party as the more responsible caretaker of taxpayers' dollars.

"We have a real problem with regard to Social Security and Medicare," Daschle said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "We're using those funds, a trillion dollars of those funds, for purposes for which they were not intended. That's what happened with the Enron scandal, and I think we've got to be very concerned about that."

Last week, the South Dakota Democrat said the administration was "Enronizing the budget."

He said the Bush administration's handling of the budget threatens to undermine the financial security of millions of baby boomers who are about to retire.

"I don't want to see them left high and dry just like the Enron employees were left high and dry without any pension funds, without any retirement security," Daschle said.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, called Daschle's remarks "inappropriate."

"When Sen. Daschle uses a term like that, I don't think that's a good way to start off the year," Lott said on the same program. "And we don't want to Daschle-ize the budget, which to me means raise taxes, increase spending and obstruct."

Houston, Texas-based Enron filed for bankruptcy in December, the largest such filing in U.S. corporate history. Many Enron employees and investors said Enron executives misled them about the precarious financial health of the company.

The debacle has colored the political debate in Washington because of the close ties several Enron executives had with the Bush administration and the fact that they and the company were generous contributors to politicians, particularly Republicans.




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