From: Ann Curley/CNN In: Washington Posted: 5-8-97 Subject: Gephardt Accuses Republicans Of Trying To Rush Budget Process
Foreshadowing the budget battle that lies ahead, House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt accused Republicans of trying to rush through the budget process, and change budget details in the process. Next week the House Budget Committee is expected to turn the agreement into real legislation.
During his weekly briefing, the Missouri Democrat expressed many concerns about the budget, saying, "I think they are not able or willing to shut this thing down and simply agree to what was agreed to on Friday. They're trying to rewrite the agreement in many important respects and most of all they're trying to rush it through before anybody can truly analyze it and I think that's a poor way to run the House of Representatives."
Gephardt said, "We are still in the dark about the details that we've been looking for on this budget." He referred to what he called "alarming" statements made by House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Archer, which, he said, refute "most of what we thought was going to happen in the tax bill. He was, for instance, saying there's no agreement on the $35 billion" for the president's education programs.
Gephardt is concerned that Archer has indicated only certain areas are off-bounds to be used to pay for tax cuts, and has rejected the idea that an agreement had been reached regarding low-income housing credits paying for a tax cut.
Gephardt also expressed concerns about calculating the Consumer Price Index (the inflation rate); he questioned agreements on Medicare that are supposed to shield low-income recipients from increased premiums; and he expressed concern that non-defense discretionary spending may be decreased.
Gephardt was highly critical of Republican plans to mark up the budget agreement on Tuesday, saying, "That may be the worst problem of all. Here we are with a major budget agreement and the majority is insisting that it be pushed through here, in rapid speed, without anyone knowing where these details are without explaining to the public" what the agreement holds.
He added, "I just don't think that this is a wise way to proceed, and I would hope that the majority would slow this thing down, would give the negotiators a chance to put into place the agreements that they reached on Friday."
Gephardt ventured a guess that "I think the majority is in a rush because they think that people will find out the substance and the details. It needs to stand in the light of day; it needs to stand, withstand scrutiny and analysis."
Switching gears, Gephardt expressed support for the Democratic alternative to the Juvenile Justice bill, which is on the House floor Thursday. The intent of the GOP legislation is to increase penalties against juvenile offenders, but Gephardt said it, "suffers badly by being only about increased penalties and not enough about both increased penalties and worrying about how to prevent crimes before they happen."
He explained that a majority of Democrats support being tough on crime, but said, "We also realize that we've got to pay attention to keeping people out of crime, preventing crime before it happens." He also stressed that, under the Republican bill, only twelve states qualify for money, excluding his home state of Missouri.
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