Utah's members of Congress openly wonder whether they can find enough good in the proposed deficit-cutting accord to, as they say, hold their noses and vote for it.

"My initial reaction is I don't like it all," said Rep. Wayne Owens."I'm not very happy with it," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

"There's a lot in it I don't like," said Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah.

Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, called it a "charade" adding the "cuts in it are illusory." Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, was unavailable for comment.

But they admit they have had little time to study the proposed deal. Its legislative language - which will likely be hundreds of pages long - has not been prepared yet.

But Congress is still scheduled to vote on it Friday. If it fails, then automatic across-the-board cuts from the Gramm-Rudman budget balancing law could occur, which would result in unpaid furloughs for federal employees. All Utah members said they want to avoid that.

Still, Hansen said too little is still known about the details for him to say how he will vote. "I've ordered all my staff to stop whatever they are doing and evaluate this package. We haveseveral briefings scheduled too.

"We'll try to find out if there's enough good in it so that I can hold my nose and vote for it."

Owens also said it is too early for him to say how he will vote on the package, but, "It hits senior citizens far too hard with $60 billion in cuts in Medicare and hospitalization."

He also complained that the package hits the lower and middle income people too hard; it does not do away with a provision that actually lowers the tax rate for people who earn more than $165,000 a year; and it requires no cuts in the budget for Congress itself.

"The refusal by the administration and Republicans to force greater participation by the super-rich is also appalling," Owens said.

But Hatch said he thinks Democrats - who pushed for higher taxes - received far too much in the deal. "There was too much in tax increases and not enough in budget reduction." He especially worries how higher gasoline taxes might affect the economy.

He added, "There's going to be a lot of screaming and shouting about this . . . but I think it will be difficult to do something different by next week."

Hatch, like others in the delegation, said the only main good he sees in the package is that it would cut the deficit and avoid unpaid furloughs.

"No one wants furloughs," Hatch said.

Nielson said the proposed deal "is mostly a tax increase" with few real spending cuts.

"In Medicare, for example, we cannot predict how many people may need that coverage and we cannot control health costs. So to say that we are going to cut Medicare by `X' millions of dollars is an illusion," Nielson said.

"Also, when we say we're cutting such things as food stamps, we are fooling ourselves. . . . Before the end of the year the fund runs out of money and Congress passes a supplemental appropriation so we end up spending the same or more than we would have originally."

Nielson added, "Eventually we're going to have to decide whether we're going to have real reductions or whether we're going to continue the charade we've had through the years."


(Additional information)

Bush on TV tonight

President Bush will give a televised address to the nation tonight at 7 MDT to press his case for a $500 billion deficit-cutting package.

Bush announced the speech himself as he met with a group of business leaders at the White House. Earlier, he met with a group of skeptical Republican House members, some of whom urged him to address the nation.

"This budget agreement is our last best chance to get the federal deficit under control," Bush said.