WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans seeking compromise on a 2002 budget are conceding that it will permit less than the $1.6 trillion, 10-year tax cut President Bush wants. But a House-Senate dispute over spending threatens to be even tougher to resolve.
Bargainers from the two chambers planned to have their first -- and probably only -- formal meeting Wednesday as they try to craft a near $2 trillion budget for fiscal 2002, which begins Oct. 1. Leaders hope a deal can be pushed through Congress by next week so the Senate can immediately begin working on a tax package, which is Bush's top budgetary priority.
In March, the GOP-controlled House approved a budget echoing Bush's priorities: A $1.6 trillion tax cut, and limiting the growth of many federal programs next year to 4 percent above this year's levels. But on April 6, the Senate -- divided evenly between the two parties -- adopted a budget paring the tax cut to $1.2 trillion, and doubling spending growth to 8.3 percent.
"We want to basically give more tax relief and spend less. The Senate has different priorities," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told reporters Wednesday, adding, "Probably somewhere in between is where we're going to come out of it."
Republicans say the tax cut will doubtless be shrunk, with many talking about a $1.4 trillion package, the middle ground between the House and Senate. To do so, the defections of two moderate GOP senators means Republicans will probably have to win support from some Democrats.
"It's a question of seeing what's going to happen on agriculture, on education funding, and national defense," said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., a prime target for Republicans seeking support for a $1.4 trillion reduction. "I want to see what's going to happen there before I talk about the tax cut."
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