Biden to use budget to fuel attacks on GOP

President Biden this week is turning to his budget proposal to go on the attack against Republicans and help make the case for his reelection but some of his biggest spending plans have already hit major roadblocks on Capitol Hill.

All presidents release an annual budget, which is typically considered “dead on arrival” in Congress once lawmakers embark on the arduous process of spending negotiations. And Biden has already launched a battle with the GOP on major issues like entitlements and reducing the deficit dominating the year.

Biden will travel to Philadelphia on Thursday to unveil his key spending priorities in yet another sign of how the White House is hoping to elevate the bureaucratic document as a political messaging tool.

Some of Biden’s proposals were made public this week in the days ahead of the Philadelphia visit, key among them being a 5 percent Medicare surtax on individuals earning more than $400,000 per year, something the administration contends will extend the solvency of the national health care program by 25 years.

That will be among an array of tax increases on the wealthy and corporations that total a staggering $2 trillion over the next decade in an effort to reduce the deficit, a suggestion sure to be met with a resounding “no.”

“You know the president’s budget is replete with what they would do if they could — thank goodness the House is Republican — massive tax increases, more spending,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) told reporters earlier this week.

“The American people can thank the Republican House” that Biden’s proposed tax increases “will not see the light of day,” McConnell said.

Other expected top lines include an increase in pay for federal workers and an $835 billion Defense budget — a controversial area in which some Republican lawmakers have suggested they take a closer look when determining where money might be cut to make up for the deficit. 

Another fiscal deadline looming in coming months that Biden expects to highlight Thursday will be avoiding a default on the nation’s debt, something the White House has said it won’t negotiate on when it comes to spending cuts suggested by GOP lawmakers in exchange to lifting the debt ceiling. 

Biden will also be the first to make public what precisely his spending proposals are — something he has taunted Republican lawmakers with by asking them to show to the public just what it is they want to cut from the country’s more than $6 trillion budget. GOP lawmakers so far have been scant with details on just what areas of the budget they wish to scrutinize and to make suggested cuts.

“President Biden often uses the old political chestnut, ‘Don’t tell me your values, show me your budget and I’ll tell you your values.’ So yes, he’ll use the budget to lay out clear contrasts between his values and those of the Republican Party,” said former Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.), a Biden ally and a senior policy adviser at Nossaman LLP. “I think he relishes it.”

While many of Biden’s proposals are likely to be cast aside by lawmakers, the tight political divisions in each chamber will require bipartisan negotiations to hammer out spending bills before the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. 

The White House contends that Biden’s spending plan is a way to show the public just where he wants the country to move toward as well as making the wealthy pay their “fair share.” Biden is expected on Thursday to reiterate that he wants to “finish the job,” which is a line he used a dozen times during his State of the Union address last month to give a nod to an upcoming 2024 campaign.

“Every president leverages release of their budget to rally their base, challenge the opposition, highlight their priorities and test themes for their next campaign,” said Bruce Mehlman, former assistant secretary at the Commerce Department under President George W. Bush.

The visit to Philadelphia, a favorite city of the administration, comes as another opportunity for Biden to set up the pillars of his reelection pitch to voters as Biden prepares for what is widely expected to be a bid for a second term.

Pennsylvania is a key battleground state in this election and the choice to travel there to unveil the budget, in a bigger-than-typical event for a budget release, highlights the focus on the swing state.

“It’s an opportunity for the president to talk directly to the American people,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday about the trip. “This is important, right? When you think about the fiscal year budget. You think about how the president is going to lay out his plan for the American people.”

While budgets can be an archaic way for a candidate to make waves with the general public, Democratic strategist Michael Starr Hopkins said Biden showing how he intends to use taxpayer funds is also a basic function of running for office.

“How you spend your money shows where you stand and what you believe in. So, the fact that Democrats are preparing to use the budget to say where they stand on issues where their priorities are, that’s exactly what politicians should be doing,” Hopkins said.

Tags Joe Biden

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