Senate Democrats Like Obama’s Budget”“but Not Enough to Act on It

Republicans were even more harsh, calling it “a campaign brochure.”

Copies of the Obama Administration's proposed budget are seen at the Senate Budget Committee hearing room March 4, 2014 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Billy House and Michael Catalini
Add to Briefcase
Billy House Michael Catalini
March 4, 2014, 7:05 a.m.

Sen­ate Demo­crats are of­fer­ing an awk­ward em­brace of Pres­id­ent Obama’s fisc­al 2015 budget, cast­ing it as a “blue­print” for fu­ture spend­ing habits, with the know­ledge that the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan is little more than an aca­dem­ic ex­er­cise.

The pres­id­ent’s budget hits at a time when there’s al­most no chance that Con­gress will act on it, after law­makers passed a hard-won two-year spend­ing plan earli­er this year that amounts to a polit­ic­al armistice — for now — over fisc­al fights.

The Demo­crat­ic ma­jor­ity is now walk­ing a polit­ic­al tightrope, sup­port­ive of the pres­id­ent’s policies but care­ful to sig­nal that they’re not re­open­ing the budget deal.

“While the Amer­ic­an people have a budget in place and the cer­tainty they de­serve that there won’t be an­oth­er budget crisis through the end of 2015, we in Con­gress owe it to them to work to­geth­er to build on that bi­par­tis­an found­a­tion,” Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Patty Mur­ray said in a state­ment.

Re­pub­lic­ans were much harder on the plan. “This budget isn’t a ser­i­ous doc­u­ment,” said House Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ry­an, who ne­go­ti­ated the budget deal with Mur­ray. “It’s a cam­paign bro­chure.”

Mur­ray had said late last week that be­cause of the two-year deal, the Sen­ate would not take up the pres­id­ent’s budget. In­stead, Demo­crats are fo­cus­ing their agenda on eco­nom­ic is­sues, push­ing for an ex­ten­sion of un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance, a hike in the min­im­um wage, and a meas­ure that would re­quire equal pay for equal work by men and wo­men.

Mur­ray praised the pres­id­ent’s pro­posed ex­pan­sion of the Earned In­come Tax Cred­it and ap­plauded the White House for aim­ing to raise rev­en­ue by clos­ing tax loop­holes.

“The two-year bi­par­tis­an budget deal signed in­to law in Decem­ber was a strong step in the right dir­ec­tion, but it shouldn’t be the last step we take,” Mur­ray said.

Speak­er John Boehner said the pro­pos­al was per­haps Obama’s “most ir­re­spons­ible budget yet.”

He com­plained that, even though Obama signed the budget deal, the pres­id­ent now pro­poses vi­ol­at­ing that agree­ment with ad­di­tion­al spend­ing. Moreover, Boehner said, Obama pro­poses rais­ing taxes, not to re­duce the de­fi­cit but to spend more tax­pay­er money.

“Spend­ing too much, bor­row­ing too much, and tax­ing too much — it would hurt our eco­nomy and cost jobs,” Boehner said in a state­ment. “And it of­fers no solu­tions to save the safety net and re­tire­ment-se­cur­ity pro­grams that are crit­ic­al to mil­lions of Amer­ic­ans but are also driv­ing our fisc­al im­bal­ance.”

The speak­er said Re­pub­lic­ans will of­fer their own fisc­al 2015 budget in com­ing weeks.

But Rep. Chris Van Hol­len, the top Demo­crat on the House Budget Com­mit­tee, ap­plauded the pres­id­ent’s budget. He said it calls for a clos­ing of “spe­cial-in­terest tax breaks” and mak­ing in­vest­ments in edu­ca­tion, sci­entif­ic re­search, man­u­fac­tur­ing, and in­fra­struc­ture. The pro­pos­als, coupled with an in­crease in the min­im­um wage, said Van Hol­len, “will help put Amer­ic­ans back to work and grow the middle class.”

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