Obama Defense Budget Plan In News Conference
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.
President Obama is holding a news conference at this hour to answer questions about the budget that he'd proposed. He repeated a pitch he's been making for the past few weeks - that the federal government, just like American families -has to live within its means - while continuing to invest in the future.
President BARACK OBAMA: So what we've done is we've taken a scalpel to the discretionary budget, rather than a machete.
INSKEEP: Trying to make targeted cuts here, he says. NPR's Scott Horsley is been monitoring the president's news conference. He's in our studios now live. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY: Good to with you, Steve.
INSKEEP: Oh, OK. The first question to the president was about what is not specifically in his budget.
HORSLEY: That's right. A lot of the president's savings come from the discretionary non-defense parts of the budget. But he acknowledged that more will need to be done to address the long-term deficits that the federal government is facing.
Historically, he said, progress in areas like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid is not done by putting out an Obama plan, but by Democrats and Republicans working together.
President OBAMA: I mean, this going to be a negotiation process and the key thing that I think the American people want to see is that all sides are serious about it, and all sides are willing to give a little bit. And that there's a genuine spirit of compromise, as opposed to people being in scoring political points.
HORSLEY: As he pointed to the experience - both in the 1980s when Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan struck a bargain to preserve Social Security for a generation. He pointed to the experience in the 1990s when a divided government with a Republican Congress and Bill Clinton in the White House was able to actually balance the federal budget. And he also pointed to his own experience striking a deal on tax cuts with congressional Republicans just before Christmastime.
INSKEEP: Let me ask you about another part of this that the president was asked about; and that we asked the president's budget director, Jake Lew, about earlier today on this very program.
He had a deficit commission that proposed sharper cuts that he is now proposing - and also dealt with Social Security. Why didn't he just propose that?
HORSLEY: Well, this question was put to the president during his new conference and the suggestion was that because that's not in the budget, that the recommendations of the fiscal commission has simply been put on a shelf, that it's never going to be more than a doorstopper.
The president bristled at that a little bit. He said, look these recommendations from the fiscal commission are not dead but this town, he said, is too impatient. He expects to come back to them and he says, you know, my standard is that a year or two from now those recommendations will - we will have made progress on those recommendations.
INSKEEP: Let's take a listen to the president here:
President OBAMA: Part of the challenge here is that this town - let's face it -you guys are pretty impatient. If something doesn't happen today then the assumption is it's not just going to happen. Right? I mean, I've had this conversation for the last two years about every single issue that we worked on, whether it was health care or "don't ask, don't tell;" on Egypt. Right?
We've had this monumental change over the last three weeks. Well, why did it take three weeks?
INSKEEP: What? Come on. People in the media impatient? We're not impatient. We're willing to wait five minutes, if we have to wait five minutes.
HORSLEY: And this a complaint that the president often makes, not only the media culture, but sort of the political culture here in Washington. And his message is: Be patient. Just because it's not in this budget doesn't mean I've forgotten about the recommendations of the fiscal...
INSKEEP: What else did the president address here?
HORSLEY: Well, he was asked about the actual pain that some of the cuts that he is proposing in the discretionary budget would cause for - especially the most vulnerable people, folks who are dependent on the government. He said, look, there are always more needs out there than there are resources in the government. I feel your pain, he said. He talked about the letters that he gets every night from people who are in distress.
He again talked about that proposal to cut heating assistance for low income families. And his rationale is that the cost of heating fuels has fallen from the time when that budget was ramped up to five billion dollars a year. Now that is true for natural gas, which is a popular heating fuel. It's not true for heating oil, it's not true for electricity and it's not true for kerosene. So there are people who really are going to be affected if that...
INSKEEP: You're tell me people are going to hurt from this.
HORSLEY: If that cut goes through. It's not all clear that it will.
INSKEEP: And then the president is saying he feels that pain - to use a phrase from earlier...
HORSLEY: He feels that shiver.
INSKEEP: OK. Scott, thanks very much. That's NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley on the president's news conference today.
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