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Dem lawmaker: Obama budget is a 'nervous breakdown on paper'

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) expressed concern President Obama's budget would go too far to rein in government spending in the midst of an economic recovery, calling the forthcoming proposal a "nervous breakdown on paper."

"This budget is a nervous breakdown on paper," said Cleaver during an interview on CNN's "Starting Point" Monday morning. "We're still in a recession, we're still struggling. Unemployment is still too high," he said. 

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The Missouri lawmaker said he understood the need for Congress to rein in spending. "We do have a serious ailment as a nation and certainly as Congress," he said. "We suffer from 'spendicitis.' " But Cleaver said the president was not "the one who spread this disease" and had inherited those problems when he came to office.

While he praised Obama for attempting to tackle challenging fiscal issues, Cleaver feared GOP pressure "for the federal government to turn the spigot off completely" could push the nation "deeper" into economic turmoil.

The Obama administration will unveil its budget Monday morning. White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew on Sunday said the proposal would strike a balance between short-term stimulus and long-term deficit-reduction goals. Lew, Obama's former budget director, said the budget would "build an economy that will last in the future."

But Republican leaders have already hammered early details of the proposal for tax revenue increases and for what they see as insufficient cuts to federal spending.


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House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) accused the White House on Sunday of "failing ... to articulate how their upcoming budget would lift the crushing burden of debt and tackle our nation’s most pressing challenges."

"It's not going to be a pretty budget," said Cleaver who has been a past critic of Obama’s efforts to reach agreements with congressional Republicans on spending fights.

Last August, Cleaver called the deal to raise the debt-ceiling a "sugar-coated Satan sandwich."

This time, he predicted that the president's proposals would not get far. He foresaw "some differences over in the Senate," but added that the proposal would likely be "dead on arrival" in the Republican-controlled House.


—Geneva Sands-Sadowitz contributed.