President Bush to submit austere budget plan

President George Bush's $2.5 trillion (£1.9 trillion) budget is shaping up as his most austere, trying to restrain spending across a government, from popular farm subsidies to poor people's health programs.

Vice-president Dick Cheney defended the plan yesterday against Democratic criticism that Mr Bush had to seek steep cuts in scores of federal programmess because he is unwilling to roll back first-term tax cuts that opponents contend primarily benefited the wealthy.

The budget's submission to Congress today will set off months of intense debate. Lawmakers from both parties can be expected to vigorously fight to protect their favourite programs.

"This is the tightest budget that has been submitted since we got here," Mr Cheney said.

"It is a fair, reasonable, responsible, serious piece of effort. It's not something we have done with a meat axe."