President Bush, hitting the road to drum up support for his new budget proposal, pledged Wednesday to work with Congress on spending cuts and said, "We weren't sent to Washington to sit on our hands."
Although members of Congress are pressing him for details on where he wants to make some $10 billion in proposed cuts, Bush deferred that decision to future negotiations between his administration and Capitol Hill.And he said in a speech to the South Carolina Legislature that he has no intention of sitting by and allowing cuts to be made across the board under provisions of the Gramm-Rudman deficit-reduction law.
"I am prepared to work with the Congress to make those hard choices," the president said. "We weren't sent to Washington to pass the cost of indecision on to working Americans by raising their taxes, or to fail to reduce the deficit, which will cause the cuts to be done automatically under the law."
Bush boasted that no one had termed his budget proposal that he delivered last week to Congress "dead on arrival." Leaders of the Democratic-controlled Congress often used that term to describe the budgets that former President Reagan submitted.
If anyone wants to use the term "DOA" now, Bush said, he has his own interpretation of the acronym-"defining opportunity for Americans."
The president said his budget analysts have figured that with no new taxes, the government will take in an extra $80 billion in revenues just due to economic growth.
That figure is more conservative, he said, than the projection of the Congressional Budget Office, which he quoted at $86 billion.
Whichever number is used, Bush said, "that's enough money to reduce the deficit down to the levels required by Gramm-Rudman-Holllings and to spend more money on priority programs."
Bush won the South Carolina Republican presidential primary last March 5. That victory, which followed his win in New Hampshire, catapulted him toward the near-sweep of the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses on March 8.
Sens. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Jim Sasser, D-Tenn., head of the Senate Budget Committee, told bush in a letter Tuesday that if he failed to provide more detail on areas that will need to be cut, Congress would "have no alternative" but to assume that he endorses the reductions that Reagan proposed last month.