White House threatens to veto spending plans unless broader budget deal reached

The Obama administration on Monday threatened to veto any spending bills for the coming fiscal year unless Republicans and Democrats reach agreement on a broader budget plan that “supports our recovery and enables sufficient investments” in White House priorities.

President Barack Obama gestures as he announces he will nominate Charlotte, N.C. Mayor Anthony Foxx to succeed Ray LaHood as Transportation Secretary, Monday, April 29, 2013, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The White House budget office issued the blanket veto threat late Monday in response to two spending bills headed to the floor of the House this week. One would fund veterans affairs and military construction, the other would fund the Department of Homeland Security.

Both were drafted in accordance with a budget blueprint drafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), which calls for the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester to remain in place through the coming fiscal year. However, the Ryan budget would shift the burden of those cuts away from veterans and national defense programs, and force domestic agencies to shoulder the entire burden.

Democrats oppose that approach, and have called for the much of the sequester to be cancelled and replaced with higher taxes and other savings. But Republicans have refused to open formal negotiations to address that broader question, and the House instead has proceeded to draft 2014 spending bills as if its own budget framework were in force.

After weeks of complaints from congressional Democrats about the lack of progress, the White House on Monday fired its first real shot in the debate, issuing formal statements about each of the pending bills.

“The President is committed to the care of our veterans and funding other important priorities within a budget framework that strengthens our economy and advances middle-class priorities,” said the statement on H.R. 2216, which funds military construction and veterans affairs.

“However, enacting H.R. 2216, while adhering to the overall spending limits in the House Budget’s topline discretionary level for fiscal year (FY) 2014, would hurt our economy and require draconian cuts to middle-class priorities. These cuts could result in hundreds of thousands of low-income children losing access to Head Start programs, tens of thousands of children with disabilities losing Federal funding for their special education teachers and aides, thousands of Federal agents who can’t enforce drug laws, combat violent crime or apprehend fugitives, and thousands of scientists without medical grants, which would slow research that could lead to new treatments and cures for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, and hurt America’s economic competitiveness….

“Prior to consideration of appropriations bills the Congress should complete an appropriate framework for all the appropriations bills. More than a month has passed since the deadline for action and the Congress has yet to appoint conferees and agree on a budget resolution,” the statement said. “Unless this bill passes the Congress in the context of an overall budget framework that supports our recovery and enables sufficient investments in education, infrastructure, innovation and national security for our economy to compete in the future, the President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto H.R. 2216 and any other legislation that implements the House Republican Budget framework.”

Republicans did not immediately respond to the threat, which seems to have little immediate consequence. The Republican House and Democratic Senate have failed repeatedly to agree on appropriations bills, and have instead repeatedly approved last-minute resolutions to keep the government open at existing spending levels.

With another deadline approaching on Oct. 1, lawmakers are already considering that option for 2014.

 

 

Lori Montgomery covers U.S. economic policy and the federal budget, focusing on efforts to tame the national debt.

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