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Bush Proposes $2.6 Trillion Budget to Congress for 2006

By David Stout

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

President Bush sent Congress a 2006 budget of just under $2.6 trillion Monday, laying out a politically ambitious blueprint for slashing many domestic programs while raising spending on the military and homeland security.

The president said his budget would further his goal of cutting the federal deficit in half, as a percentage of the gross domestic product, by 2009, while promoting prosperity and entrepreneurial principles. He said it would do that while continuing to strengthen the military so it can win “the global war on terror” and spread freedom around the world.

“In every program, and in every agency, we are measuring success not by good intentions, or by dollars spent, but rather by results achieved,” Bush said in his budget message. The president has already vowed to cut or eliminate entirely about 150 non-military programs that he says have fallen far short.

Taken as a whole, the budget tome seems intended to slow the seemingly inexorable growth in government spending -- something President Ronald Reagan did not manage to do, his vows to the contrary.

Bush’s spending plan, which has already sparked opposition on Capitol Hill as details have begun to leak out, is certain to be furiously debated in the months ahead, and not just on strict party lines. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Democratic minority leader, quickly issued a statement calling Bush’s package “the most irresponsible and misleading budget in our nation’s history.”

The budget does not provide for money to finance the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House has signaled that it will soon ask Congress for about $75 billion more in the current fiscal year for those operations, and in all probability a similar, or larger, sum will be requested once the 2006 fiscal year is under way.

If the past is any guide, the final budget for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1 will look much different from the one the president sketched Monday. But the annual mid-winter budget presentation to Congress is important politically, as the White House lays out its goals and 535 members of the House and Senate counter with theirs.

Bush did not back off his oft-stated position that the “temporary” tax cuts enacted over the past several years should be made permanent as their expiration dates come up. Several deficit-wary Republicans have joined Democrats in expressing fears of what that will mean for the future.

Bush pledged to increase money for anti-terrorism investigations, security at borders, airports and seaports and improved safety for food and drinking water, considerations that have a vastly higher profile since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. At the same time, he said his blueprint promotes economic growth and opportunity, provides for reforms in schools and health care and “affirms the values of our caring society.”

The budget envisions raising overall defense spending by 4.8 percent while cutting discretionary spending not related to defense and security needs by almost 1 percent, “the tightest such restraint proposed since the Reagan administration,” the White House said.

Discretionary spending is that which can be adjusted by political negotiations, as supposed to built-in costs.