(CNSNews.com) - Congressional Democrats' proposed increases in discretionary spending - $23 billion more than President Bush's request for the 2008 Fiscal Year - are justified by spending on the war in Iraq, according to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democrats.
Bush asked for $933 billion in discretionary spending in his budget request. The Democratic proposals would raise that figure to $956 billion. Cybercast News Service went to Capitol Hill Wednesday to ask elected officials this question:
"Do you support spending $23 billion more in discretionary spending than the president requested?"
"Why doesn't he [Bush] talk about that asking for $190 billion more for war without a plan, a reason to stay, a plan to leave and a strategy for success?" House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said. (Listen to her full statement)
Pelosi said the increases in discretionary spending are "about ... increased benefits for America's veterans, for the education of our children. We would happily invite the debate on our values and the priorities that we have established in that increase."
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a critic of the Iraq war, offered a similar answer, telling Cybercast News Service that she is "focused on the fact that we're spending and have spent almost $500 billion on the war and the question becomes, if you can spend that much money on the war in Iraq, why can't you support your schools, health care and repairing the infrastructure?" (Listen to her full interview)
"Obviously if we're spending the money, we have it," she said.
However, 2007 discretionary spending was $158 billion in deficit. The Congressional Budget Office estimates a $155 billion deficit in 2008.
"I think we cannot focus on just this small amount in discretionary spending," Waters said. "If we just revisit just a portion of that [tax cuts], discretionary spending would pale in comparison to how much money we're giving away."
Republicans were more reluctant to support overshooting Bush's request on discretionary spending, although not all of them ruled it out.
Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.) said that he would not support the additional spending on its own but that "if it were in some package that allowed us to improve the tax code using a package deal, then I could look at it." (Listen to his full interview)
Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said he agrees "wholeheartedly with the president" on discretionary limits and encouraged the president to follow through on threats to veto spending bills that go over his proposed limits. (Listen to his full interview)
"The American people are tired of us just spending more and more and more and ignoring the ramifications for the deficit and the economy," Lott said, adding that he believes Republicans have the votes to block Democratic spending increases.
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