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Washington in brief

Bush's budget guru says he'll step down

By Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 7, 2003

WASHINGTON - White House budget director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. said Tuesday that he will resign, completing a clean sweep of President Bush's original economic team on the eve of a legislative fight over Bush's latest tax cut proposals and only months before the start of the 2004 presidential election season.

Daniels, a conservative favorite and former political operative for President Ronald Reagan, told Bush of his plans to step down within 30 days in a phone call and later a short letter Tuesday morning. It is widely thought he is preparing to run for governor of Indiana.

The odds-on favorite to replace Daniels is Clay Johnson III, a longtime friend of Bush who is a nominee to become the budget agency's deputy director for management.

Daniels' tenure as budget director was marked by an abrupt swing from surpluses, which were expected to run $5.6-trillion over 10 years when he took office, to deficits, which the White House now says will total $2.2-trillion over the next decade.

William Bennett says gambling days are over

WASHINGTON - Former education secretary and family values advocate William Bennett says he is giving up the high-stakes casino gambling that has cost him millions over the past decade.

"My gambling days are over," the Book of Virtues author said in a written statement responding to news reports.

"It is true that I have gambled large sums of money. I have also complied with all laws on reporting wins and losses," Bennett said.

"Nevertheless, I have done too much gambling, and this is not an example I wish to set," he added.

Attempts to reach Bennett for further comment were unsuccessful.

Internal casino documents show Bennett to be a "preferred customer" in at least four casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., and Las Vegas, according to reports published by Newsweek and the Washington Monthly.

Some casino estimates put his total losses over the past decade above $8-million.

Bennett, who was education secretary under President Ronald Reagan and drug policy director for the first President Bush, acknowledged his gambling to Newsweek.

Bush welcomes progress on House tax cut bill

WASHINGTON - President Bush said he saw progress in Congress on his tax cut plans Tuesday as a House committee passed a scaled-back version of his $726-billion reduction aimed at triggering economic expansion.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 24-15 along party lines to approve a bill that would cut taxes $550-billion in the coming decade and reduce taxes on stock dividends and capital gains to 15 percent for most investors.

Tax writers in the Senate made a symbolic step toward the president by including a short-term dividend tax cut in the earliest version of its bill. It eliminates taxes on dividends for only one year but succeeds in making the bill more politically palatable to many Senate Republicans.

Also . . .

RUMSFELD NAMES CHOICE FOR NAVY SECRETARY: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has asked President Bush to nominate Colin McMillan, an oilman and former defense official, as the next secretary of the Navy, defense officials said Tuesday. McMillan, a former Marine, runs Permian Explorations Corp., a New Mexico-based oil exploration company.

GARY HART SAYS NO: Gary Hart, the 1988 Democratic front-runner who was forced to abandon his presidential bid due to scandal, said Tuesday he will not try another run for the White House.

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