WASHINGTON – President Bush was heading to Pittsburgh, Pa. Tuesday to promote homeland security, specifically, anti-bioterror initiatives that will receive a $6 billion boost if the president's budget is approved.
Bush is touring the University of Pittsburgh medical center to see a program that ties 17 hospitals together in an effort to quickly track and respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases. He will be joined be Homeland Security Director and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge
The president is on his second day of hawking his 2003 annual budget proposal, which he sent to Congress Monday for a first glance. The $2.13 trillion proposal offers big boosts to the war on terrorism and homeland security.
The rest of the government's priorities received modest increases — or in some cases decreases — to keep the expected $80 billion deficit from soaring. Overall, the president proposed a 3.7 percent increase from this year's spending.
Democrats immediately went to criticizing the proposal. Arguing that Bush's budget would divert Social Security and Medicare surpluses over the next decade to pay for other programs, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., said Bush was not "honoring our commitments."
"The budget should promote long-term economic growth through fiscal responsibility, investments in people and technology and honoring our commitments to Social Security and Medicare. The administration's budget fails on all three counts," Gephardt said.
Republicans, however, defended the proposal. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said the eroded surpluses justified "limiting growth in spending for those programs that are not as essential during these trying times."
Click here to view the White House proposed 2003 budget online.
To fight the current war against terrorism, Bush wants to devote $379 billion to the Pentagon's needs, a $48 billion increase over the current year's budget. The biggest increase in defense spending in two decades includes another $18 billion for improving domestic security. That money will go to a bioterrorism program with stockpiles of vaccines, and more cash for the Coast Guard, Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to tighten borders.
Bush cut funding for other government programs, in particular international aid, transportation, agriculture, and general government spending.
Bush's proposed cuts include a $9 billion reduction in highway spending, reductions in water projects by the Army Corps of Engineers and elimination of hundreds of education and health projects that lawmakers had won congressional approval for last year for their home districts.
In his proposal, Bush pledged to wage a "bold agenda for government reform" that would eliminate wasteful spending by using for the first time a formal performance rating that determined which government programs were failing to do their job effectively.
Talking to troops at Elgin Air Force Base Monday, the president called on Congress to pass his budget.
"We're unified in Washington on winning this war," he told cheering troops. "One way to express our unity is for Congress to set the military budget, the defense of the United States, as the No. 1 priority and fully fund my request."
But Bush has already met resistance from the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Kent Conrad, D-S.D., who likened the budget to energy giant Enron's moves to disguise its rapid descent into uncontrollable debt.
"Enron got into trouble because they didn't fully disclose debt they have and that is precisely what the federal government is doing," Conrad said.
The president will offer a prescription drug program for Medicare recipients, which he estimated would cost $190 billion over the next decade. Democrats contend the cost would be much higher. Part of the savings, though, would come from a $9 billion reduction in 2003 in federal payments to hospitals.
Arriving in boxes that were moved by forklift to offices on Capitol Hill, the red, white and blue-wrapped covers depicted the American flag and for the first time featured color photos of everything from military jets to ordinary Americans in an effort to bring the eye-glazing parade of budget charts to life.
In it, Bush proposes his economic stimulus package that failed to pass the Democratic-led Senate last year. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., brought a separate, modified version of the bill before the Senate when Congress returned two weeks ago, but it has been dying a slow death as it gets bogged down in amendments.
"It appears the Republicans want to block something," Daschle said in a floor speech. "We don't need to be on an economic stimulus bill for three weeks."
Much of the stimulus package includes tax cuts for individuals and businesses. As part of his proposal, Bush wants to expand last year's $1.35 trillion, 10-year tax cut by two years, adding $344 billion more in returns to income tax payers.
The president would generate a total of $591 billion in tax cuts through breaks to corporations that increase jobs and private-sector spending. Tax relief would also come in the form of tax credits for education and health care for individuals.
Democrats, however, contend that the president should abandon his tax-cut plan in order to pay for the additional military financing.
"I am one of those rare birds in the Congress who is actually a veteran of the Vietnam era and I will support every nickel that is necessary for our troops. But I don't think that when they're done with their service that there should be no Social Security for them. And the fact is that the president wants to increase tax cuts using the Social Security money. That's where all the money comes from over the next 10 years is right straight out of the surplus in the Social Security system and there's no need to add $600 billion worth of tax cuts," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., a member of the House Budget Committee.
Bush said in speeches leading up to the release of the budget that his budget was summarized in one word: jobs.
One of his methods of doing so is by pushing drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The president, who got the backing of the Teamsters but is opposed by environmentalists, is pushing $1.2 billion in new revenue by leasing the drilling rights in ANWR.
Bush's budget comes in a fiscal environment starkly different from the one he inherited when he came to power just over a year ago. With a war and a recession, the projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion has been revised to $1.6 trillion, assuming the president's proposal, the object of months of congressional debate, are approved.
The 2002 budget is expected to face a $106 billion deficit. After the $80 billion deficit next year, the president projects a $14 billion deficit in 2004 before surpluses return in 2005.
The shrinking of the projected surplus over the next decade has forced the administration to delay one of Bush's major campaign promises: bolstering Social Security by letting workers set up individual investment accounts.
The president also plans to delay paying down $2 trillion in national debt to keep that money in the Social Security account, since the large generation of baby boomers are reaching retirement age.
Fox News' Wendell Goler and The Associated Press contributed to this report