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President's budget no longer dead on arrival'

By By SONNY CALLAHAN
U.S. Representative
Last week President George W. Bush submitted his detailed budget proposal outlining his spending priorities for Congress' consideration and review.
This is a time-honored tradition whereby the president, who resides at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, sends his budgetary thoughts and suggestions up to Congress, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
During most of the 1980s and 90s when Americans lived through a period of divided government whenever the president would submit his budget to Congress someone on Capitol Hill would rush out to the first available microphone and declare the budget "dead on arrival."
I'll never forget my first year in the House, back in 1985, when Speaker Tip O'Neill pronounced President Reagan's budget "DOA" before the document had even been transmitted to Congress. I remember thinking "what a sham."
One of the many positive changes that has taken place in Washington during the transition from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration is the fact that all messages from the president – including his budget request – aren't automatically considered "DOA."
That said, neither is the president's budget request considered gospel.
To the president's credit, his detailed budget fully supports the blueprint he released back in February.  It also demonstrates how his administration would distribute funds consistent with his administration's priorities.
But the Constitution clearly gives Congress an important say in the checks and balances of our system of government. 
It also directs that Congress, not the executive branch, exercises control over the "purse strings." Among other things, this means the debate over who to fund and at what level moves from the White House squarely into our court for action.
Most members of Congress I know applaud Mr. Bush for presenting us with a detailed budget that holds spending down to sustainable levels.   
As you may recall, it wasn't that many years ago when a Democrat Congress and the Clinton administration were running up the cost and size of government, not to mention projecting deficit spending for years to come.
Clearly, in the myriad of government programs detailed in the president's budget submission, many members of Congress are going to agree with the president's priorities on some matters and disagree with him on others.  This is just a normal part of our budgetary process.
In fact, even though I consider myself a strong supporter of the president and his agenda, I already find myself concerned about some of the funding levels for areas that I know need more money, not less.
But, once again, this is all part of the budgetary process.  And the good news, for those individuals or agencies that are slated to receive a significant cut in funding, is the budget game has just begun.  Between now and October 1, when Fiscal Year 2002 begins, there will be many opportunities for Congress and the White House to seek a meeting of the minds.
Good job, Mr. President
While there is always room for disagreement over funding priorities in government services, there was little disagreement late last week that President Bush handled the recent crisis with China diplomatically and responsibly. 
The president, who was facing the first big international test of his new administration, announced last Wednesday that all 24 American servicemen and women would be coming home soon following a highly-publicized collision between a Chinese fighter jet and a high tech U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance plane.
Clearly, no one, save maybe a good fortune-teller, knew how this standoff was going to end.   
But compared to the late-1970s confrontation between the U.S. and Iran, when the Ayatollah Khomeini held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days, this resolution would have to be termed a smashing success. 
Until next week, take care and God Bless.