By Erik Wasson
Congressional Republicans are seizing on the White House’s failure to meet the Feb. 4 legal deadline to produce an annual budget as a gift that will help them recover from months of political beatings.
The White House on Monday declined to say when President Obama’s delayed 2014 budget will come out.
“President Obama missed a great opportunity today to help our economy. This was supposed to be the day he submitted his budget to the Congress. But it’s not coming. It’s going to be late. Some reports say it could be a month late,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on the House floor.
“I’m disappointed the president has missed his deadline. But I’m not surprised,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement. “In four of the last five years, he’s failed to submit his budget on time.”
The blown deadline allows the GOP to be on the offensive and continue to shift the political conversation back to fiscal restraint, aides say.
On Wednesday, the House will vote on a bill to require the president to submit a budget that eventually balances — something Obama’s 2013 budget never did.
The GOP’s political offensive began when it forced the Senate and White House to accept No Budget, No Pay legislation that will require senators to go without pay if they fail for the fourth time in a row to do a budget resolution this year.
That measure was attached to a debt ceiling increase after the GOP abandoned more aggressive plans to attach deep spending cuts for fear of an overreach that again put them on the defensive.
Since winning reelection, Obama was able to successfully corner the GOP on the issue of taxes. The party reluctantly allowed tax rates to rise on those making more than $400,000 per year after the White House hammered Republicans as the party of the rich.
The GOP is now hoping that the administration’s failure to produce a budget on time —for the fourth time — is a stumble that will finally rebalance the fiscal conversation back toward spending cuts.
A renewed focus on spending could help the GOP replace looming defense sequester cuts with cuts to domestic programs, while allow them to repel efforts by Democrats to replace them with higher taxes for oil and gas companies and by closing other tax loopholes.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) will provide a second prong of the GOP offense on Tuesday in a speech highlighting how GOP policies on taxes, immigration and education are designed to help the middle class.
White House spokesman Jay Carney would not tell reporters when the budget will come out, according to a transcript.
The White House and budget office did not respond to separate inquiries about a timeline on Monday.
Carney said Republicans should take up and pass Obama’s past budget plans, which call for hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenue.
"He has a proposal that the speaker of the House is welcome to take up today or tomorrow as he might wish which represents balanced deficit reduction," Carney told reporters.
Ryan has committed to writing a budget this year that will balance in 10 years, a feat that will require something in the neighborhood of $8 trillion in spending cuts.
The budget will, like last year’s version, likely call for the eventual partial privatization of Medicare, which could massively increase healthcare costs for seniors.
Carney said House Republicans should stop passing "highly partisan" budgets that have "no support among the American people."
According to the pool report, Carney would not say whether Obama would release a budget before or after the State of the Union, which will take place on Feb. 12.
Congressional aides expect the budget proposal to come in March. That would not be the latest that Obama waited to produce a budget — his first one came in May.
Democratic and Republican sources said Monday that the uncertainty surrounding the “fiscal cliff” and possibly internal disorganization were to blame for the delay, rather than some strategic maneuvering.
Federal agencies have been working out their final budget numbers as recently as last week, a stage in the budget process that normally occurs in November.
The White House and Congress are facing a March 1 deadline to deal with automatic spending cuts to the 2013 budget and a March 27 deadline to deal with finalizing 2013 funding.
The 2014 budget deals with a later timeframe and Obama has already outlined his position on how to replace the sequester — through a mix of tax increases and spending cuts — and at what level to continue spending this year, sources say.
Because of this, delaying the budget into March does not appear to offer a negotiating advantage.
Ryan is expected to mark up a budget in the third week of March in order to allow the House to pass it by the April 1 legal deadline. The White House delay raises the intriguing possibility that Ryan’s plan will come out before Obama’s, sources said.
On the sequester, Senate Democrats are expected to discuss possible replacements at their annual retreat this week and to vote on a bill as early as next week turning off the $85 billion in cuts using revenue increases.