WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) on Wednesday said he's willing to go along with congressional plans to make further cuts in the budget he submitted in February, saying he's open to making broad-based cuts in agency budgets.
In a speech to the Economic Club of Washington, Bush said lawmakers should make tax relief permanent and restrain the spending appetite of the federal government. Bush's message was designed in part to ease the worries of conservatives that the Republican Party is not doing enough to control spending and cut the deficit.
"Earlier this year, I submitted the most disciplined proposal for non-security discretionary spending since Ronald Reagan was in the White House," Bush said. "My budget proposed an actual cut in spending in non-security discretionary spending. Congress needs to make that cut real. I'm open to a further, across-the-board spending cut as well."
The White House had earlier responded tepidly to congressional GOP plans for across-the-board cuts since they could mean curbs in the Pentagon budget as well. Bush's remarks came as congressional Republicans are advancing a budget implementation bill to curb federal spending by as much as $50 billion over five years.
Earlier in the day, Bush met with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search), House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other lawmakers to identify offsets and rescissions in the budget that can provide for emergency relief in a "fiscally responsible" way.
"Some have said that the unprecedented destruction caused by the recent hurricanes means that we've got to put our plans to cut the deficit on hold," Bush said. "I disagree. We don't have to do that.
"We can help the people of the Gulf Coast region recover and rebuild and we can be good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars at the same time, which means we're going to have to reduce unnecessary spending elsewhere in the budget."