WASHINGTON – House Republicans redoubled their efforts to roll back signature accomplishments of President Barack Obama on Tuesday, offering a slashing budget plan that would repeal new health care subsidies and cut spending across a wide swath of programs dear to Obama and his Democratic allies.
The GOP plan was immediately rejected by the White House as an approach that “just doesn’t add up” and would harm America’s middle class. Obama said the plan would “slash deeply” into programs such as Medicaid.
Obama has rebuffed similar GOP plans two years in a row and ran strongly against the ideas when winning re-election last year – when its chief author, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was on the Republican ticket.
Ryan’s budget illustrates the stark differences in the visions of tea party-backed Republicans and Obama and his Democratic allies about the size and role of government – with no obvious avenues for compromise.
Obama, in an ABC-TV interview Tuesday, said he would not seek to balance the federal budget in 10 years, as Ryan’s plan attempts to do, when he submits his fiscal blueprint to Congress next month.
“My goal is not to chase a balanced budget just for the sake of balance,” he said. “My goal is how do we grow the economy, put people back to work, and if we do that we are going to be bringing in more revenue.”
Senate Democrats are responding with a plan that would repeal automatic spending cuts that began to take effect earlier this month while offering $100 billion in new spending for infrastructure and job training. The Democratic counter won’t be officially unveiled until today, but its rough outlines were described by aides.
That plan by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., would raise taxes by almost $1 trillion over a decade and cut spending by almost $1 trillion over the same period. But more than half of the combined deficit savings would be used to repeal the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that began to hit the economy earlier this month and are slated to continue through the decade.
Obama is pressing for a “grand bargain” that would attract more moderate elements from both parties – even as this week’s competing budget presentations are tailored to appeal strictly along party lines.
Obama meets with House Republicans today.
At issue is the arcane and partisan congressional budget process, which involves a unique, nonbinding measure called a budget resolution. When the process works as designed – which is rarely – budget resolutions have the potential to stake out parameters for follow-up legislation specifying spending and rewriting the complex U.S. tax code.
But this year’s dueling GOP and Democratic budget proposals are more about defining political differences than charting a path toward a solution.
“If you look at the two budgets, there’s not a lot of overlap,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, top Democrat on the Budget Committee. He said the lack of “common ground” makes it necessary to make uncomfortable compromises.
One such compromise might be to adopt a stingier inflation adjustment for Social Security cost-of-living increases and the indexing of income tax brackets. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pressed for the new inflation measure in both sets of his failed previous budget negotiations with Obama, and the idea was favorably discussed in the “supercommittee” negotiations chaired by Murray in the fall of 2010.
But this “chained CPI” idea is nowhere to be found in either the Ryan or Murray budgets. Obama did propose the idea in his meeting with Senate Democrats – but only as an element of a broader deficit-reduction pact in which Republicans would yield on approving new tax revenues.