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Washington in brief

House and Senate GOP deficit bills are more aggressive than Bush's

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2003


WASHINGTON -- House and Senate Republicans offered separate plans Wednesday for eliminating federal deficits over the next decade, with both proposing far more aggressive attacks than President Bush has sought on the huge projected shortfalls.

Both congressional GOP plans would make passage of Bush's proposed $726-billion tax-cutting economic growth package a priority, giving an important boost to a plan that featured elimination of the tax on corporate dividends.

The rest of the $1.57-trillion in new tax reductions through 2013 that the president has proposed would be unlikely to be enacted this year.

The House and Senate blueprints would cut spending more deeply than the president has proposed, underscoring a desire among Republicans to be seen as taking the initiative against surging federal red ink.

The House version was particularly assertive, claiming balance in seven years, three years sooner than the Senate's.

It would require lawmakers to find $470-billion worth of savings over the next decade in unspecified benefit programs that were all but certain to include Medicare and Medicaid, the federal health insurance programs for the elderly and poor.

The Senate version would require no such savings.

Democrats derided Republicans for budgets that ignore the costs of a possible war with Iraq, which analysts have said could exceed $100-billion. They also criticized the GOP for trying to advance big tax cuts at a time of massive deficits while curtailing spending for a broad range of domestic programs -- cuts the Democrats predicted would not come about.

The deficit-cutting plans were included in $2.2-trillion budgets for 2004 that the House and Senate Budget committees debated.

Congress' budget is a guide that sets tax and spending targets, but leaves decisions about details and the enactment of actual changes in revenues and expenditures for later legislation.

Census Bureau says it overcounted by 1.3-million

WASHINGTON -- After crunching more numbers, the Census Bureau says it overcounted by 1.3-million people in 2000 instead of missing more than 3-million.

The findings released Wednesday show an overcount of whites, Asians, American Indians on reservations and young children, while many blacks and Hispanics were missed during the once-a-decade count.

The estimate will not affect the government's official population count of 281.4-million in 2000, said Census Bureau director C. Louis Kincannon. Neither will it affect how the federal government distributes at least $185-billion to the states for social services and programs.

White House will oppose meat recall disclosure

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration will oppose legislation that would make meat companies tell consumers which stores received meat that was recalled because of possible contamination, an Agriculture Department official said Wednesday.

Elsa Murano, the department's undersecretary for food safety, told a House subcommittee consumers wouldn't benefit because companies send meat to places other than grocery stores and restaurants.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said she was considering legislation in the wake of food-poisoning outbreaks that killed nine people last year.

The department asks companies for lists of retailers and wholesalers when checking which ones might have sold the meat before it was recalled. However, the agency cannot release the lists to the public because they are considered proprietary trade information.

In Congress . . .

MEDICAL ERRORS: The House on Wednesday passed a bill 418-6 to create a voluntary system for tracking medical errors, promising confidentiality to hospitals and doctors and assurances the information will not go to lawyers for use in malpractice suits.

The legislation, in the works for more than a year, "will help us move from a culture of blame to a culture of safety and ultimately increase patient safety," said Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs.

DEFIBRILLATORS FOR SCHOOLS: The House passed a bill 415-0 Wednesday that would create clearinghouses to provide training and tips for schools on how to raise money to buy defibrillators. The bill authorizes $25-million for states to establish programs.

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