Here Are Seven Things in Obama’s Budget That Are Never Going to Happen

These presidential wish-list items will be scoffed at by Republicans.

National Journal
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Lauren Fox
Feb. 2, 2015, 7:02 a.m.

The pres­id­ent’s budget is his open­ing ar­gu­ment, an of­fer, a blue­print and, in the end, a lib­er­al wish list that is likely to be brushed off or ig­nored by the Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled Con­gress. But in the budget, not all items are cre­ated equal. Here are some of the pres­id­ent’s pro­pos­als that are most likely to be dis­missed on the spot by the GOP.

1. $1 Bil­lion to Stop the Root Causes of Il­leg­al Im­mig­ra­tion: Obama wants to send $1 bil­lion to Cent­ral Amer­ica, in­clud­ing El Sal­vador, Guatem­ala, and Hon­dur­as, to de­vel­op a “long-term strategy” to halt il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion be­fore it starts. In his plan, the money would be used to en­hance “eco­nom­ic op­por­tun­it­ies” and build “more demo­crat­ic, ac­count­able, trans­par­ent, and ef­fect­ive pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions” in coun­tries where the U.S. has seen large num­bers of mi­grants in re­cent years. The money would also be used to crack down on hu­man smug­gling.

Why it’s a pipe dream: Trust between the White House and the GOP has de­teri­or­ated sub­stan­tially over the last year when it comes to how to tackle im­mig­ra­tion. After thou­sands of un­ac­com­pan­ied minors fled over the bor­der and spilled in­to south­ern Texas, Re­pub­lic­ans used the in­flux as an ex­ample of how un­con­trolled the bor­der was. They passed a bor­der bill in Au­gust that in­creased bor­der-con­trol spend­ing. The le­gis­la­tion also in­cluded $40 mil­lion to help Cent­ral Amer­ic­an coun­tries re­pat­ri­ate chil­dren and halt the ex­odus of young people from their bor­ders. However, $1 bil­lion is sub­stan­tially more than $40 mil­lion. After Obama an­nounced in Novem­ber that he would block the de­port­a­tion of mil­lions of im­mig­rants already here il­leg­ally, it’s un­likely the pres­id­ent will find a will­ing part­ner to touch any­thing re­lated to im­mig­ra­tion.

2. An In­vest­ment to Com­bat Cli­mate Change: With a chan­ging cli­mate, Obama ar­gues it is time for the U.S. to start get­ting pre­pared be­fore nat­ur­al dis­asters strike. His first line of ac­tion is to con­tin­ue aim­ing to cut car­bon emis­sions. In his budget, the pres­id­ent has marked $7.4 bil­lion to in­vest in clean-en­ergy tech­no­logy. Obama also pro­poses giv­ing states more money to in­centiv­ize them to take ac­tion against car­bon emis­sions. The pres­id­ent pro­poses spend­ing money to help coastal com­munit­ies plan for shifts in loc­al eco­sys­tems, and he wants to in­vest an ad­di­tion­al $175 mil­lion in the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency’s Pre-Dis­aster Mit­ig­a­tion Grant Pro­gram, as well as to con­tin­ue spend­ing on wa­ter-con­ser­va­tion pro­grams. While the White House ad­mits in its budget that “it can­not be said with cer­tainty that any in­di­vidu­al weath­er event is caused by cli­mate change,” it ar­gues that the “costs of cli­mate change add up.” Over the past 10 years, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment says it has spent $300 bil­lion on nat­ur­al dis­asters from fires to drought.

Why it’s a pipe dream: While a ma­jor­ity of Re­pub­lic­ans re­cently voted to ac­know­ledge cli­mate change is real, many are still du­bi­ous about wheth­er hu­mans are re­spons­ible for it. In 2014, Re­pub­lic­ans cri­ti­cized the pres­id­ent for set­ting re­duced car­bon emis­sions goals with China. It is un­likely they will sud­denly em­brace them now. Al­though the pres­id­ent’s plan is meant to save money in the long run — an idea Re­pub­lic­ans have of­ten voiced sup­port for — halt­ing cli­mate change is not con­sidered a GOP pri­or­ity.

3. End­ing Vet­er­an Home­less­ness: The pres­id­ent an­nounced in 2009 that he in­ten­ded to end chron­ic vet­er­an home­less­ness by the end of 2015. And, ac­cord­ing to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, the num­ber of home­less vet­er­ans has de­clined by a little more than 30 per­cent in the last sev­er­al years. To con­tin­ue to­ward his goal, Obama is up­ping the budget for the Hous­ing and Urb­an De­vel­op­ment De­part­ment’s Home­less As­sist­ance Grants and en­sur­ing that there are 67,000 new hous­ing vouch­ers avail­able for vet­er­ans of any dis­charge status, young people who are in­eligible for foster care, and sur­viv­ors of do­mest­ic ab­use, to name a few.

Why it’s a pipe dream: Re­pub­lic­ans have fought against up­ping the num­ber of vouch­ers for home­less vet­er­ans in the past. While Demo­crats ar­gue that the GOP is leav­ing home­less vet­er­ans out on the street, Re­pub­lic­ans con­ten­ded in 2011 that the vouch­ers were rolled back merely be­cause there was a sur­plus from pre­vi­ous years that had gone un­used.

4. Obama As­sum­ing Funds From Im­mig­ra­tion Re­form: In his budget, the pres­id­ent plans to re­duce de­fi­cits by en­act­ing com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion re­form. Ac­cord­ing to his plan, Obama ex­pects that al­low­ing im­mig­rants in the coun­try to come out of the shad­ows would re­duce the de­fi­cit by nearly $1 tril­lion over two dec­ades.

Why it’s a pipe dream: Re­pub­lic­ans have re­peatedly said that Obama “poisoned the well” on im­mig­ra­tion re­form when he an­nounced his ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion al­low­ing mil­lions to stay in the coun­try without fear of de­port­a­tion. And, even as Re­pub­lic­ans weigh passing their own bor­der-se­cur­ity bill, there are deep di­vi­sions with­in the con­fer­ence mak­ing even the ini­tial step dif­fi­cult. If Re­pub­lic­ans can­not agree on bor­der se­cur­ity, there is little ex­pect­a­tion they would be able to pass a series of bills in­clud­ing one that would leg­al­ize the 11 mil­lion im­mig­rants already liv­ing in the coun­try.

5. In­creas­ing the Cap­it­al-Gains Tax: To pay for many of his pro­pos­als, the pres­id­ent has to stream­line the tax code. His first or­der of busi­ness is to in­crease the “por­ous cap­it­al-gains tax.” Obama plans to in­crease the tax from 23.8 per­cent for top earners to 28 per­cent. The White House has tried to garner GOP sup­port for the pro­pos­al by re­mind­ing con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans that was the rate Pres­id­ent Re­agan agreed to in a tax deal in 1986.

Why it’s a pipe dream: The White House and the Re­pub­lic­an-con­trolled Con­gress have said re­peatedly that tax re­form is one area where they can work to­geth­er, but House and Sen­ate lead­ers have already told Obama that hik­ing taxes on the wealthy is a non­starter.

6. Free Com­munity Col­lege: The pres­id­ent’s plan is to make two-year col­leges free for Amer­ic­ans look­ing for more edu­ca­tion. The White House ar­gues that in­vest­ing in com­munity col­lege cre­ates more skilled work­ers and cuts down on so­cial safety net costs over time. The budget also in­cludes an ad­di­tion­al $200 mil­lion to in­vest in ca­reer and tech­nic­al train­ing for in­ter­ested stu­dents.

Why it’s a pipe dream: The pres­id­ent has said he plans to pay for the pro­gram by in­creas­ing the cap­it­al-gains tax for top earners and clos­ing oth­er cor­por­ate tax loop­holes. There is just one prob­lem: Re­pub­lic­ans have already made it clear they are not will­ing to budge on cap­it­al gains and they aren’t will­ing to move for­ward with a pro­gram that drives up the fed­er­al de­fi­cit.

7. More Money for the IRS: The pres­id­ent pro­poses giv­ing the In­tern­al Rev­en­ue Ser­vice $12.9 bil­lion so the agency can mod­ern­ize and bet­ter tar­get cor­por­a­tions and in­di­vidu­als who are not prop­erly pay­ing taxes.

Why it’s a pipe dream: There may be no more loathed fed­er­al agency than the IRS. After the agency was ac­cused of tar­get­ing con­ser­vat­ive groups ap­ply­ing for non­profit status, Re­pub­lic­ans are in­creas­ingly un­likely to boost the agency’s budget. The GOP has cut the IRS budget by 10 per­cent over the past five years.

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