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Boehner rejects Obama's budget; DoD budget in political limbo

Apr. 5, 2013 - 01:16PM   |  
Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Friday slammed President Barack Obama's coming 2014 budget plan for not cutting federal spending deeply enough while proposing more new revenues.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Friday slammed President Barack Obama's coming 2014 budget plan for not cutting federal spending deeply enough while proposing more new revenues. (AFP)
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WASHINGTON — Republican House Speaker John Boehner on Friday slammed President Barack Obama's coming 2014 budget plan for not cutting federal spending deeply enough while proposing more new revenues. For the defense sector, the Ohio Republican's stance shows the Pentagon budget remains caught in an ideological struggle over domestic programs and tax rates.

Boehner's critical statement came after reports surfaced that the budget blueprint the Obama administration will send to Congress next week will propose Social Security and Medicare changes, including $400 million in savings from the former.

The Obama plan will also propose further slashing the federal deficit by $1.8 trillion. The Obama administration's spending plan would trim future Pentagon spending by only $100 billion in 10 years, $400 billion less than mandated under sequestration. It calls for the same amount in domestic cuts.

The White House's budget will propose replacing the twin $500 billion defense and domestic sequestration cuts with other federal spending cuts and new revenues by again raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans and by closing corporate tax loopholes.

Most congressional Republicans and Democrats also say they want to find a package of deficit-reduction measures that would replace the sequester cuts. Obama and lawmakers from both parties, almost all in the Senate, are in talks about the kind of “grand bargain” fiscal package needed to turn off the sequestration cuts.

Congressional Democrats largely support Obama's plan, though many want fewer federal spending cuts and more revenues; Republicans oppose any further revenue increases, saying additional deficit-paring steps should be achieved almost entirely via spending cuts — though some GOP lawmakers have not entirely abandoned the idea of closing corporate tax loopholes.

White House officials say the backbone of their 2014 budget plan, set to hit Capitol Hill on Wednesday, is the final proposal the president presented to Boehner in late December as part of the infamous “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters last month that Obama had made clear to Boehner and other GOP lawmakers that the December deficit-reduction plan, which Boehner rejected and then immediately left the cliff talks, “remains on the table and available to be taken up.”

But on Friday, Boehner again rejected it.

“The president and I were not able to reach an agreement late last year because his offers never lived up to his rhetoric,” Boehner said. “Despite talk about so-called balance, the president's last offer was significantly skewed in favor of higher taxes and included only modest entitlement savings. He said he could go no further toward the middle, and that's why his last offer was rejected.”

Boehner and other congressional Republicans want much deeper domestic entitlement cuts, with the speaker charging Obama has not proposed any federal spending cuts.

“In the end, the president got his tax hikes” in the January cliff deal “on the wealthy with no corresponding spending cuts,” Boehner said.

The $980 billion in new cuts in the White House's 2014 plan would replace the remaining nine years of scheduled across-the-board sequestration cuts, but it proposes no further cuts to offset the $580 billion in new revenues it proposes. That angers GOP budget hawks, especially in the House, who believe the biggest national problem is the amount Washington spends on the federal government.

“At some point we need to solve our spending problem, and what the president has offered would leave us with a budget that never balances,” Boehner said.

White House surrogates took to the Friday morning news talk shows to cast the coming Obama 2014 budget as a politically moderate blueprint. Boehner, however, sees it differently.

“In reality, [Obama has] moved in the wrong direction,” Boehner said, “routinely taking off the table entitlement reforms he's previously told me he could support.”

The speaker also panned the president for a plan that proposes entitlement reforms that would be “held hostage for more tax hikes.”

As has been the case since the August 2011 Budget Control Act passed, some kind of agreement between Republicans and Obama on entitlement reforms and taxes is needed to turn off the defense sequestration cuts. And that means, to use Boehner's words, the annual defense budget again is being “held hostage” as that ideological debate heats up once again.

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