WASHINGTON -- The federal budget deficit will rise to at least $337 billion this year and may well approach or exceed $400 billion because of tax cuts and new spending for hurricane relief and the war in Iraq, congressional budget analysts said yesterday.
The latest Congressional Budget Office data also suggest President Bush is unlikely to be able to keep his promise to cut the deficit in half by the end of his term.
Even assuming a phasing down of the war in Iraq and the costs of hurricane relief, implementing tax cuts sought by Bush and Congress would produce deficits exceeding $300 billion through the end of the decade, the nonpartisan budget office said.
The report and Bush's Feb. 6 budget submission kick off a predictably partisan election-year debate over the budget against the backdrop of rising deficits, record spending, and concern about lawmakers' home-state pet projects.
Bush promised in 2004 to close the deficit from a then-estimate of $521 billion to $260 billion by 2009, and he promised again yesterday to meet that goal.
''We can cut our deficit in half by 2009 and make sure the American people still get their tax relief," Bush told reporters.
The budget office predicts a $332 billion deficit for 2009, the last fiscal year for which Bush is responsible.