President Barack Obama’s $4 trillion budget, like every president’s, is a purely symbolic wish list of policy items the administration would pursue in an ideal political world, one in which his party controls everything and faces no ideological opposition. But it also serves as a key mission statement that allows him to frame the political debate for the next year and leading up to the 2016 election, when his party hopes to maintain control of the White House without him. This year, Obama is using the annual Washington ritual to tout his crusade on behalf of what he calls “middle class economics.” For Republicans, the president’s budget represents the year’s juiciest target.
Yahoo News breaks down the most important provisions in the budget, and how the parties reacted to those measures.
Easing away from austerity policies: Perhaps the most notable aspect of Obama’s 2016 budget is that it ignores the spending caps imposed by Congress in 2011 as part of a deal that allowed the government to continue to pay its bills while slashing spending across the board, for both military purposes and domestic programs. Republicans had reclaimed control of the House in 2010 on a message of reducing the federal debt and cutting spending, which Democrats argue actually slowed economic recovery over the past five years.
Republicans have long opposed the military spending cuts implemented as part of the across-the-board savings they helped enact in 2011, and they aim to reverse those cuts in 2015. In boosting spending levels by $75 billion above the agreed-to caps — including $40 billion in increases for domestic programs like Head Start and universal preschool — the White House is sending two messages. The first, to the general public, is that the president does not believe that austerity is the best economic policy; and the second, to the new Republican majority in the Senate and expanded majority in the House, is that the president does not support rolling back military cuts without also increasing domestic spending.
What Democrats are saying: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California: “We must have an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few. By ending the sequester, by addressing the wage stagnation that hinders growth, by strengthening our national defense, by investing in innovation and education, the president’s budget strengthens the financial security of working families who are the backbone of our country.”
What Republicans are saying: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.: “What we saw this morning was another top-down, backward-looking document that caters to powerful political bosses on the left and never balances — ever. The new Congress will focus on ways to help the middle class instead as we work to pass the serious kind of budget all Americans deserve: one that roots out and reforms wasteful spending, and that aims to grow middle class jobs and opportunity instead of Washington’s bureaucracy.”
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