Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee shouted down President Bush's veto threat Tuesday and voted to delay for 20 days deep spending cuts that will be triggered unless Congress and the White House agree on a deficit-reduction plan.
If the $85 billion in arbitrary spending reductions are allowed to take effect as scheduled Oct. 1, Chairman Jamie Whitten, D-Miss., told the committee, ``it threatens to bring the economy to its knees. We can't afford the risk.'At the White House, an angry Bush said: ``If there is no budget agreement with real spending reductions and real process reform by the end of the week, I will have to veto it. I do not want to see further delay in kicking this problem on down the road.'
The House is likely to consider the bill later this week.
No deficit agreement was in sight, although top leaders of Congress and the administration claimed some progress. The goal is a combination of targeted spending reductions and tax increases that would cut the deficit by $50 billion during the 12 months beginning Monday and an additional $450 billion in the following four years.
House Republican Leader Bob Michel of Illinois said he is ready to drop Bush's coveted capital gains tax cut, which has been the thorniest issue in the negotiations. ``In my opinion the doggone price is too steep,' he said.
Michel said the administration is considering other options for stimulating the economy - options that might be more acceptable to Democratic leaders, who consider a capital gains cut nothing but a windfall for the rich.
The stopgap spending legislation approved by the House panel is necessary because none of the 13 annual appropriation bills has been enacted - and a new budget year begins in less than a week. For the first time in several years, federal workers are taking the threat of furloughs seriously.
With the Monday deadline in mind, the House panel agreed by a nearly party-line 32-20 vote to continue spending basically at present levels through Oct. 20 and to block any threatened across-the-board spending cuts - including those that could bring mass furloughs of federal workers - before that date.