White House budget requests typically serve as an opening statement that guides Congress’s budget negotiations – although the president is several weeks behind the legislature in putting out a plan this year.
In the past, the president’s budgets have represented his “ideal spending priorities, untethered from political realities,” as a recent Washington Post article explained.
This time around, the president’s budget will call for reduced entitlement spending – on some of the government’s most expensive programs, such as Medicare and Social Security – in exchange for $580 billion in new tax revenue, according to White House officials.
The president said during his weekly address on Saturday that his 2014 budget request “is not my ideal plan,” but it’s “a compromise I’m willing to make.”
Obama’s comments echoed past remarks by President Reagan, who said the following about a budget deal that Washington struck in 1982:
“Make no mistake about it, this whole package is a compromise. I had to swallow hard to agree to any revenue increase. But there are two sides to a compromise. Those who supported the increased revenues swallowed hard to accept $280 billion in outlay cuts. Others have accepted specific provisions with regard to taxes or spending cuts which they opposed.”
In January, Congress reached a deal that allowed lawmakers to deal separately with the two central issues in budget negotiations: taxes and spending.
That agreement delayed the sequester for about two months and increased taxes on the wealthy by more than $600 billion over 10 years.
After Republicans conceded to new revenue at the start of the year, neither party did much to avoid the looming sequester cuts, which now require $1.2 trillion in government-wide spending reductions over the next decade.
That put austerity advocates a bit ahead in this year’s game of spending cuts versus tax increases. Score: Tax Increases $600 billion, Spending Cuts $1.2 trillion.
The president’s budget would replace the sequester with $1.8 trillion in selective spending cuts, netting more savings than the sequester itself would provide over the next decade, according to White House estimates. Obama’s plan would also raise $580 billion in new revenue, according to officials.
Overall, that kind of deal would raise each team’s score: Tax Increases $1.2 trillion, Spending Cuts $1.8 trillion.
The House and Senate have already approved competing budget plans, with Republicans in the House proposing a budget that would rely heavily on spending cuts to reduce the deficit, while Democrats in the Senate put out a measure that focuses more on new revenue.
Wednesday’s request by the White House will begin the next phase of negotiations, which require a bit of compromise, flexibility and “swallowing hard,” as Reagan put it, to succeed.
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