Administration officials are defending President Clinton's 1999 budget after the Congressional Budget Office said it contains less than half the surpluses it claims and spends more than last year's budget agreement allows.
"The president's proposals are consistent with the budget agreement, and they provide what a vast majority of Americans think is important," said White House budget chief Franklin Raines."For five years now, the deficit has gotten lower," said Gene Sperling, a Clinton economic adviser. "We have every reason to stand by our numbers and our record."
The nonpartisan CBO, Congress' official budget analyst, said Wednesday that Clinton's budget would produce surpluses over the next five years totaling $100 billion, compared to the $219 billion he claims.
The CBO said the surpluses would climb to $143 billion if lawmakers took no action on a series of budget proposals made by the president.
"His own budget would spend $43 billion of the surplus on new programs," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
In other analysis, the CBO said that rather than an uninterrupted stream of surpluses, Clinton's spending plan would dip back into a $5 billion deficit in 2000, although surpluses would resume immediately afterward.
The CBO also said Clinton's budget breaks spending caps agreed to in last year's budget deal by about $68 billion through 2002, when the caps expire.
Republicans used the findings to buttress their claims that Clinton's package would be a return to big spending and big government.
"He's breaking the budget, breaking the agreement we reached last year, and worst of all, breaking faith with the American people," said House Budget Committee Chairman John Kasich, R-Ohio.
Since the CBO said Clinton would reduce surpluses by $43 billion, Domenici accused Clinton of violating his own pledge to leave surpluses untouched until a long-term fix for Social Security's looming fiscal problems is found.
The report did little to alter the political dynamic already on Capitol Hill: Republicans intend to ignore many of Clinton's plans to expand access to Medicare, build new schools, pay for other programs and pursue their own priorities. It also did not solve GOP divisions over how deeply to cut taxes and how to use projected surpluses.
Republicans have already decided to spend more for highways than Clinton proposed, drawing no strong White House objections. Domenici hopes his committee will begin writing a budget late next week. House Republicans, still thrashing through differences over taxes and spending, won't act at least until late April.
The chief differences between the CBO and White House projections were that the CBO believes Medicare and some other programs will cost more than Clinton thinks.