Obama to drop entitlement cuts from 2015 budget
By: Reid J. Epstein
February 20, 2014 01:34 PM EST
President Barack Obama is done pretending that he’ll get any new budget cooperation from House Republicans.
His proposed 2015 budget, due to be released next month, will stick to the economic strategy the White House has laid out without the compromise suggestion he floated last year, White House officials said Thursday.
Gone, the White House said, is Obama’s proposal for chained CPI — an offer to reduce the the benefit increases for Social Security and other federal social programs.
Instead, the budget will hew to traditional Democratic priorities, presenting how Obama would fund the government if he controlled all the levers of power, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
The White House blamed House Republicans for refusing to entertain raising tax revenue in exchange for including chained CPI — but added that Obama’s offer to include chained CPI in exchange for raising new tax revenue remains on the table, as part of the negotiating process.
Obama’s 2015 budget proposal comes about as Democrats and Republicans are operating under a two-year bipartisan spending agreement reached in December by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the leaders of the Senate and House budget committees. The budget proposal will adhere to the Murray-Ryan spending limits, the White House said.
The White House expressed disappointment — though not surprise — that Republicans wouldn’t consider tax revenue increases, then or now.
“Unfortunately, Republicans refused to even consider the possibility of raising some revenue,” Earnest said. “That is an unfortunate policy choice that Republicans themselves have made.”
The budget proposal will include $56 billion for Obama’s Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative which would, among other things, a new Race to the Top education initiative, the manufacturing institutes Obama has called for in his last two State of the Union addresses and universal pre-kindergarten.
The White House budget is, as Earnest said, a political document that represents how a president “in an ideal world believes the government should be funded.” The budget Obama proposed last year fizzled nearly as soon as it was presented. The largest new revenue stream the White House pitched — $78 billion in new taxes on tobacco to fund education programs — never got traction in Congress and was largely forgotten.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called Obama’s budget stance as a “non-starter” in the House.
“This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: the president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said Thursday. “The one and only idea the president has to offer is even more job-destroying tax hikes, and that non-starter won’t do anything to save the entitlement programs that are critical to so many Americans. With three years left in office, it seems the president is already throwing in the towel.”
Obama’s move to abandon chained CPI was immediately hailed by liberals who howled last year when Obama proposed including the concession in his budget.
“This is a huge progressive victory — and greatly increases Democratic chances of taking back the House and keeping the Senate,” said Stephanie Taylor, a founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “Now, the White House should join Elizabeth Warren and others in pushing to expand Social Security benefits to keep up with the rising cost of living.”
Obama’s proposed budget, the White House said, will also include expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers.
The White House acknowledged that its proposals are essentially dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled House.
“While Republicans may still protest any effort to close a single common-sense tax loophole, that is not going to stop the President from promoting new policies that should be part of our public debate,” a White House official said.