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Congress Unlikely to Embrace Bush Wish List

Congress passed the last major revision of the federal farm support system in 2002, after considerable contentious debate. Lawmakers are not about to reopen the issue before they have to, Cochran said.

"Frankly, I don't think anyone in the administration really thought Congress would go along with this," he said.

_____Budget Politics_____
Audio: Post congressional reporter Mike Allen discusses how the president's budget is being received on Capitol Hill.
_____Live Discussion_____
Transcript: Brookings Economist William Gale discusses the 2006 budget.
Transcript: Post's Jonathan Weisman

_____More Coverage_____
President Sends '06 Budget to Congress (The Washington Post, Feb 8, 2005)
Bush Calls for Familiar Trims (The Washington Post, Feb 8, 2005)
Troops' Pay Raise, Retooling Efforts Come With Price (The Washington Post, Feb 8, 2005)
Plan Avoids Rollbacks That Some Feared (The Washington Post, Feb 8, 2005)
For Budget Director, No Red Ink and the Skies Are Not Cloudy All Day (The Washington Post, Feb 8, 2005)

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Similar resistance has emerged toward the administration's plan to consolidate community development programs at the departments of the Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Commerce all under the Commerce Department's roof.

To make that happen, Bush would have to win the consent of four appropriations subcommittees, as well as the Senate banking committee and the House Financial Services Committee. Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that funds HUD, said the proposal "makes no sense."

"We don't have a single government," he said. "We have a three-branch government. We are supposed to have some power of the purse up here."

The largest savings in the budget would come from Medicaid. The administration hopes to close loopholes that Bolten said are allowing state governments to gain more than their fair share in federal Medicaid matching grants, for a savings of $45 billion over 10 years.

"The Medicaid proposals do involve asking states to shoulder a more appropriate share of the burden," he said.

State governments have become adept at taking advantage of the system to boost their federal share of Medicaid spending, often using that federal money to finance government spending far afield from health care, said Medicaid expert James Frogue of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which represents state legislators.

But state governments -- many headed by Republican governors -- are already struggling with burgeoning Medicaid costs, and many will no doubt balk at the plan. Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) said states are not doing anything that is contrary to existing law. Both the federal government and the states need to work together to get control of Medicaid costs, he said.

It "would be very unfortunate if the administration tried to characterize the very rules HHS created and blessed" as states now gaming the system, said Warner, who is chairman of the National Governors Association.

Staff writers Ceci Connolly and Dan Morgan contributed to this report.

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