Obama Budget to Exceed Caps by $74 Billion
President Barack Obama next week will propose an additional $74 billion in spending above fiscal 2016 budget caps, which would be about 7 percent above sequestration levels, according to a White House official. This includes $530 in non-defense spending, or $37 billion over the spending caps, and $561 billion for the base defense budget, an increase of $38 billion.
CQ NEWS Jan. 29, 2015 – 2:31 p.m.
GOP Gives Cold Shoulder to Obama Sequester Plan
By Paul M. Krawzak, CQ Roll Call
Republicans were quick Thursday to reject President Barack Obama’s plan to offer a fiscal 2016 budget request that exceeds sequestration spending levels by about 7 percent.
A White House official confirmed that his request, due Monday, would top spending caps $74 billion — raising the discretionary defense cap by $38 billion to $561 billion and the non-defense cap by $37 billion to $530 billion
While some Republican lawmakers in both chambers are calling for higher defense spending, most reject the idea of providing more money for domestic programs or closing tax breaks to pay for the increased spending.
Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Budget committees, said higher defense spending may be needed, but more domestic spending is not.
“I steadfastly oppose the idea that for every dollar spent on defense, it has to be matched by a new extra dollar spent on non-defense,” he said.
“We do need to deal with defense issues but to say we’re going to do defense, that means we also have to plus up other areas, is not going to hold,” Lankford said. “We need to maintain those caps long term. This is the only piece that we have that is actually continuing to hold down our spending.”
Johnson said he’s “fine looking at different reprioritizations of spending within the caps.” But he added that he’s “a little concerned about trying to raise caps and then saying you pay for it” since “I’ve never seen any real genuine pay-fors.”
The White House has suggested that it would pay for its plan for higher spending through a yet unspecified combination of spending cuts and closing tax loopholes
House Budget Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., rejected the spending proposal through an aide.
“It’s disappointing though not surprising that President Obama is once again attempting to unravel a bipartisan fiscal accomplishment in order to increase spending across the board and raise taxes,” Price spokesman William Allison said. “The president should work with Congress to ensure the military has the resources it needs to complete its mission and to achieve deficit reduction within the caps through smarter reforms and savings.”
Several GOP senators continue to push for higher defense spending even if some of the increase might be paid for through closing tax breaks. But they are not supporting Obama’s plan.
“I think the president should be leading the effort to replace sequestration as a whole, not for one year, and we should have the Simpson-Bowles approach where we do some revenue and some entitlement reform to replace what’s left of sequestration before we destroy vital programs,” Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said. He added that while the “bulk” of offsets should come from overhauling entitlement programs, Democrats will not support sequester relief unless it also raises domestic spending.
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain said all the post-sequester discretionary caps through 2021 need to lifted.
“I would like outright repeal, and I’m willing to do any deal to see that we can comply with the heads of our military who all said yesterday we’re putting American lives in danger with sequestration,” the Arizona Republican said. But asked if he would support higher taxes to fund higher defense spending, he said, “No, we don’t have to raise taxes.”
War Fund Flexibility
Senate Democratic Whip Richard J. Durbin said there could be potential for providing more resources for defense through the war-related Overseas Contingency Operations account, which is outside of the main spending caps.
“We’ve always had this supplement, the OCO account, the wartime account, that has come to the rescue of the Department of Defense,” he said, noting that it has been the solution “in the last year or two.”
Asked if he sees any chance for Congress to get around the spending caps on defense in particular, the Illinois Democrat said, “I don’t think the Republicans want sequestration any more than the Democrats do — in areas of domestic spending but certainly when it comes to national defense.”
- Patty Murray, D-Wash., who worked with Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., to craft a compromise that raised the spending caps in fiscal 2014 and 2015, applauded the proposal.
“Democrats and Republicans agree that the automatic budget cuts are bad for our economy and our country, and I am hopeful that Republicans can put middle class families and our troops above the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations and will work with me and other Democrats on another balanced and responsible replacement to these senseless cuts,” she said in a statement.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also endorsed the plan.
Obama to propose spending $74B more in 2016 than mandatory spending cuts
President Obama on Thursday will seek to rally Democrats behind a budget proposal he’ll release next week that would spend $74 billion more in discretionary investments than would be allowed under the spending caps mandated by Congress four years ago in an attempt to reduce the federal deficit, according to White House officials.
The proposal, a 7 percent increase over sequestration levels, includes $530 billion on the non-defense discretionary side, an increase of $37 billion over the spending caps; and $561 billion in defense spending, an increase of $38 billion over the spending caps.
The plan prompted an immediate outcry from Republicans.
“He is the most liberal, fiscally irresponsible president we’ve had in history,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) in an interview. “I don’t know why he doesn’t see it.”
Obama will preview his plans in remarks to House Democrats at their retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday.
The president’s budget proposal “will fully reverse those cuts for domestic priorities, and match those investments dollar-for-dollar with the resources our troops need to keep America safe,” said the administration official, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
Congress established the sequester through the Budget Control Act in 2011, mandating spending cuts that were projected to total $1.2 trillion and were scheduled to begin in 2013 and end in 2021, evenly divided over the nine-year period.
Obama’s push to exceed the spending caps is already sparking a fight with Republicans, who have criticized him for attempting to grow the government at a time when wages have stagnated, limiting the benefits of the economic recovery.
“Republicans believe there are smarter ways to cut spending than the sequester and have passed legislation to replace it multiple times, only to see the president continue to demand tax hikes,” said Cory Fritz, spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner. “Until he gets serious about solving our long-term spending problem, it’s hard to take him seriously.”
In his address to fellow Democrats, Obama also plans to emphasize the need for Congress to pass a measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security beyond Feb. 27, when the agency’s funds are set to expire. House Republicans are attempting to use that deadline to force Obama to accept a rollback of his executive actions on immigration announced in November.