WASHINGTON — Congress will act quickly to give President Bush the money he needs for the war in Iraq, but his budget for next year is "a different story," Sen. Byron Dorgan predicted Saturday.
"There is strong disagreement on this budget, and a disagreement about his priorities," the North Dakota Democrat said during the party's weekly radio address.
All senators voted in favor of a resolution that expresses support for Bush and U.S. troops, said Dorgan, who leads the chamber's Democratic Policy Committee. He said lawmakers now must provide everything needed to finish the job.
In next year's budget, however, the president wants to slash taxes while boosting military and other spending, Dorgan said, and the moves would lead to the biggest budget shortfalls in history.
"That doesn't make sense to me," he said. "I don't think it's right to ask our soldiers to fight this war and then not ask our citizens to pay for it."
The Senate voted mostly along party lines this week to provide less than half of the $726 billion in tax cuts Bush wants to spark the economy. The GOP-led House put the entire tax cut in its budget plan.
Democrats will keep up "an aggressive debate" as lawmakers resolve the differences, Dorgan said.
Dorgan said the funds that would pay for the tax cut could go to important domestic programs, including education and the president's own proposal to have Medicare cover prescription medicine for seniors.
More money also is needed to guard against terrorist attacks, Dorgan said, adding that only 100,000 of the roughly 5.7 million cargo containers that enter U.S. seaports each year are inspected.
"If we're going to protect this country from terrorists who would hide a weapon of mass destruction in a container on a ship, we have to do much, much better than that," he said.
While the White House is pushing for a big tax cut during wartime, it also knows sooner or later Americans' attention will snap back to the economy. Bush and his advisers do not want to see the country emerge from war only to slip into recession.