White House releases $4.1T budget — then goes on attack

Cameron Lancaster

The White House on Tuesday unveiled a $4.1 trillion election-year budget and then immediately pivoted to attacking congressional Republicans on their own fractured attempts to craft a fiscal blueprint.

The administration’s final wish list for Congress includes multibillion-dollar investments in areas such as clean energy, education and job growth, paid for mostly by tax hikes on big banks and the wealthy.

{mosads}But in an unusual move that diverted attention from the president’s blueprint, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan used a press briefing to highlight budgetary strife within the House GOP conference.

He warned that some House Republicans who want to reduce spending further are threatening to “blow up” last fall’s $1.1 trillion spending deal, which imposes a top-line figure on 2017 discretionary spending.

“The question here isn’t a fight between the administration and Republicans, it’s a fight within the Republican Party,” Donovan told reporters on Tuesday. “We’ve done our part with this budget. It’s going to be up to them to see whether they could live up to their promises to get back to regular order.”

Donovan’s attacks intensified the rhetoric in the budget battle, which is shaping up to be the main fight  between Congress and the White House in President Obama’s last year in office.

Republicans had fired a shot last week by announcing they would refuse to grant Donovan a hearing on Obama’s budget, a gesture previously given to presidential budgets.

Administration officials seized on the issue to highlight proposals they said had significant bipartisan agreement, such as cancer research funding and opioid addiction.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other Republicans targeted Obama’s proposal, the costliest of his presidential budgets, as unserious. Ryan, a former Budget panel chairman whose austere blueprints have come under attack from Democrats, also took a shot at the White House for failing to release a balanced budget in Obama’s presidency.

“This isn’t even a budget so much as it is a progressive manual for growing the federal government at the expense of hardworking Americans,” Ryan said in a statement.

His remarks echoed a chorus of other Republicans who blasted the budget as a radical agenda intended to help the president’s party at the polls.

Obama and former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) struck a two-year deal last fall setting the top-line figure for this year’s appropriations process at $1.1 trillion. The agreement also lifted the spending caps known as sequestration, which were first put in place in 2011.

A small core of GOP fiscal hawks, led by the House Freedom Caucus, is now threatening to derail that agreement, pushing Ryan to drive a harder bargain on reducing the deficit.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said in a statement Tuesday that he “intends to produce bills that abide by the budget caps.” But a GOP leadership aide said negotiations are ongoing.

House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) declined to comment on whether the GOP planned to abide by the spending limits.

“We’re working, and we’ll get there,” Price told The Hill on Tuesday.

Obama’s budget chief was quick to point out the administration stayed within the limits of the bipartisan spending agreement, casting the White House as the only willing partner in the upcoming budget negotiations with Congress.

The president will huddle with Democratic leaders in Congress Tuesday afternoon to rally support for his budget request and figure out how to present it to the public.

The proposal includes a litany of long-shot progressive ideas, like universal preschool and free community college, that will serve as a political messaging tool in the upcoming elections.

Major pillars of the administration’s budget, like a $10 per barrel oil tax and a $1 billion initiative to accelerate cancer research, had already been announced. Several policies are also intended to shore up Obama’s legacy on promises like policing Wall Street and expanding Medicaid.

Donovan said he disputed the “conventional wisdom” that the budget proposal would be dead on arrival in Congress. He noted areas of “critical national need” like funding for cyber security, veterans affairs and the Internal Revenue Service.

Administration officials say the plan would cut the deficit by $2.9 trillion over the next decade, with $955 billion in savings coming from ending tax breaks and hiking taxes on the nation’s highest-earning individuals. Other savings come from the president’s healthcare law — nearly all from changes to Medicare — and sweeping reforms to the immigration system, which failed in Congress.

“The budget is a roadmap to a future that embodies America’s values and aspirations: a future of opportunity and security for all of our families; a rising standard of living; and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids,” Obama wrote in his budget message to Congress.

Tags Boehner John Boehner Paul Ryan Shaun Donovan

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