Obama Fires First Salvo in Latest Budget Fracas

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REUTERS

Heralding a new budget battle with congressional Republicans, U.S. President Obama called Thursday for an end to the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration and proposed a 7% hike in spending above those limits, USA Today said.

“Let’s make sure that we’re funding the things that we know help American families succeed, ” Obama told a meeting of House Democrats as his staff disclosed parts of a proposed budget to be unveiled Monday, the report said.

The president wants to “reverse harmful sequestration cuts, ” and focus instead on “middle-class economics” that includes new programs for child care, paid leave and community college, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, according to the report.

All told, the new federal budget proposal will include about $74 billion more in “discretionary investments” than would be allowed under sequestration in 2016, about a 7% increase over those caps, the White House said in a statement, the report said.

The plan includes $530 billion on the non-defense discretionary side, an increase of $37 billion over current limits, the White House said. The budget also proposes $561 billion in defense spending above sequester restrictions, an increase of some $38 billion, USA Today said.

Speaking to House Democrats, Obama said the government can raise the tax revenue to pay for his proposals by “fixing a tax code that is riddled with loopholes for special interests”, the report said.

Sequestration, meanwhile, threatens the nation’s economy and military because it “doesn’t differentiate between smart government spending and dumb government spending, ” Obama said, according to the report.

Obama’s budget is simply a proposal, and won’t get through the Republican-run House and Senate. Earnest described Monday’s release as “the beginning of a negotiation” with GOP lawmakers, USA Today said.

Many of those Republicans say they too want to eliminate the sequester, but the Obama budget includes too many tax hikes and too much spending, the report said.

“Republicans believe there are smarter ways to cut spending than the sequester and have passed legislation to replace it multiple times, only to see the president continue to demand tax hikes, ” said Cory Fritz, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, USA Today said. “Until he gets serious about solving our long-term spending problem it’s hard to take him seriously.”

Don Stewart, deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that “previous budgets submitted by the president have purported to reverse the bipartisan spending limits through tax increases that the Congress — even under Democrats — could never accept”, the report said.

Budget battles — how much to spend, who and how much to tax — have been a Washington mainstay for decades. Republican President Ronald Reagan fought with Democratic lawmakers, while Democratic President Bill Clinton faced a Republican Congress, USA Today said.

In the Obama era, budget standoffs with congressional Republicans led to a government shutdown in 2013 and a near default on the nation’s credit in 2011, according to the report.

The coming budget battles follow November elections that gave Republicans control of the U.S. Senate and a bigger majority in the House. Obama, meanwhile, feels emboldened by signs of a recovering economy and higher approval ratings in political polls, the report said.

 

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