Dems Cave On Budget; Conservatives Still Wary

Democrats last night agreed to cut billions from their spending bills to meet President Bush's demands on the fiscal 2008 budget, but conservatives are already nitpicking the appropriations breakthrough.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday afternoon Democrats would meet Bush's demand for $933 billion in total spending by implementing across the board cuts, a move that showed Democrats have been backed into a corner by a president unwilling to negotiate on appropriations.

But by Thursday morning, the Republican Study Committee, which represents more than 100 conservative GOP lawmakers, started railing against the deal, saying the addition of billions in "emergency" spending and veterans affairs money could bust the president's budget.

Indeed, Democrats may meet the $933 billion bottom line demanded by Bush, but they plan to add $3.7 billion for veterans and $7.4 billion in emergency spending for drought, wildfires and other one-time costs. Republicans also argue they should count emergency spending that was approved earlier this year against the total figure. Traditionally, "emergency" funding does not count against regular annual spending levels.

For example, the GOP has never counted the Iraq war funding against annual budgets because the war has been funded for five years as emergency supplemental spending. The new war money proposed by House Democrats _ about $30 billion _ is not counted against the bottom line in the RSC calculations.

"Stating the obvious, thus far Republicans have worked all year to successfully protect taxpayers from a Democrat spending spree," said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the Republican Study Committee. "At this point Democrat leadership is not in a desirable negotiating position.”

A spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget said the president wasn't ready to sign off on the deal.

"We are encouraged by reports of movement in the right direction, but to know whether there is a bill the President can sign," said Sean Kevelighan. "We need to see the details on several important elements such as the top line, whether there are emergency designations abuses or unacceptable policy riders, and how funding for our troops is being treated."