President Barack Obama’s $3.7 trillion budget sets off a clash with congressional Republicans who seek deeper spending cuts and face a potential revolt within their own party if they don’t pare aggressively enough.
Obama’s first budget request since Republicans took House control was met immediately today with demands for a far bolder reshaping of government. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said the president’s plan “will destroy jobs by spending too much, taxing too much and borrowing too much.” He promised a rival plan for 2012 within weeks.
Republicans said the president ignored the need to address the growth of entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, that make up most government spending.
“The president’s budget accelerates our country down the path to bankruptcy,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, said in a statement. He said the plan “puts the government on track to nearly double in size since the day he took office — a direct result of his party’s reckless spending spree.”
Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget request would reduce deficits by $1.1 trillion over a decade and cut areas including grants to water-treatment plans and heating subsidies for the poor. Revenue increases opposed by Republicans would make up the rest, including a proposal to let taxes rise for married couples with more than $250,000 in annual income.
The current fiscal year’s deficit is forecast to reach a record $1.6 trillion — 10.9 percent of gross domestic product.
Stabilize the Economy
Democrats praised Obama for taking steps to stabilize the economy and put the nation on a stronger fiscal path. At the same time, they signaled they aren’t on board with all his proposed program cuts.
The plan “keeps in mind that we need to make smart choices that will create more jobs, lift up middle-class families and keep our economy growing,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. He called the proposal a “tough-love budget” that “doesn’t do violence” to priorities like education and medical research.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said Obama’s plan was a “serious attempt” to address the deficit while Republicans are seeking to “slash the programs that keep us safe and make us competitive.”
The November elections, which gave Republicans control of the House and a gain of six Senate seats, emboldened party leaders to press Obama hard for tougher budget concessions.
No ‘Sense of Urgency’
“I still don’t see a sense of urgency from the president about the massive federal debt,” Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the third-ranking Republican, said in a statement. He said Obama’s blueprint calls for too much government borrowing. Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas called the budget proposal “timid.”
The fight may escalate in coming months when Obama seeks to increase the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit, needed to prevent a default on government obligations. Republican leaders have said they will demand deep spending cuts in exchange, and a number of Tea Party-backed members want to go further than their leaders may propose.
Last week, after House Republican leaders said they would propose reducing the current year’s budget by about $35 billion, their members forced them to come up with more cuts for a $61 billion reduction. The plan outlined Feb. 11 would end more than 100 government programs and cut spending on areas including the environment, health care, energy and transportation.
Republicans faulted Obama today for not taking on cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has insisted that the president must take the lead on that subject.
Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican and a former director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, said Obama’s plan was a “political document” that rejected proposals presented to the president’s debt commission late last year. The plan, ultimately rejected by the commission, would have cut Social Security benefits and Medicare.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said that after creating the debt commission, the president’s plan failed “to even acknowledge these tough issues that everyone knows drive up our debt and must be reformed if they are to meet their obligations for younger Americans.”
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