WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush reaffirmed to the House Democratic leader Friday his promise to avoid tapping Social Security's surpluses, despite the suggestion by one top senator that diverting some of the money might make sense.
Rep. Dick Gephardt emerged from a morning meeting with Bush pleased by the president's assurances.
The two met one day after Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee for the past two decades, said that with the economy slowing and overall federal surpluses dipping, it might be time to use some of the Social Security funds to pay for other programs.
Gephardt told reporters after speaking with the president: "I'm happy to note that he doesn't seem to agree with Mr. Domenici and (Rep.) Tom Davis, who today were quoted as saying they we needed to go in and start spending Social Security and Medicare trust funds."
Gephardt, D-Mo., also disputed the White House formulation, spoken several times by Bush and his aides in recent days, that Democrats critical of his tax cut really mean to raise taxes.
"I don't know where he gets that. He's -- best I can figure out -- making it up," Gephardt said. "I haven't said that, and I don't know of other Democrats who have said that. What we are for is a more balanced budget."
On Thursday, Bush repeated his position that Social Security reserves must not be tapped except in times of war, recession or severe emergency. He appealed to Democrats, "Let's work together to make sure that our budgets don't cause us to dip into Social Security."
Domenici, in Thursday remarks to the Senate budget panel, said of the Social Security surplus, "There is no reason in the world you should look at it for only one purpose, to pay the debt down. ... What's wrong with using it for education or other purposes?"
With both parties looking for ways to avoid tapping into the surplus, Ari Fleischer, Bush's press secretary, on Friday took one option off the table and said the president was open to another.
Fleischer said Bush will not support spending increases, but did not rule out backing an across-the-board spending cut being considered by GOP lawmakers.
Some lawmakers and White House aides privately agree that using Social Security funds is likely.
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