Obama's Budget Stirs Partisan Debate

Three days after President Obama sent his $3.6 trillion budget to Capitol Hill, the battle lines became clearer Sunday as both sides sparred on the TV talk shows.

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ROBERT SMITH, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Smith. The ink is still drying on President Obama's $3.6 trillion budget proposal, but the battle lines already seem etched in stone.

Democrats and Republicans sparred on the TV news shows today, overshadowing a pretty big story. President Obama is set to fill his last vacant Cabinet post. More from NPR's David Welna at The Capitol.

DAVID WELNA: After having his first pick, Tom Daschle, bow out, President Obama's expected to announce his second nominee for Health and Human Services secretary tomorrow, but his choice of Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas for that post got little attention on the Sunday talk shows. Instead, guests spent most of their time either attacking or defending President Obama's budget.

Georgia House Republican Tom Price told CNN's "State of the Union" that the president is bringing back the era of big government.

(Soundbite of television program, "State of the Union")

Representative TOM PRICE (Republican, Georgia): The budget that he put out there is going to have the largest debt in the history of the nation over the 10-year period of time. There's more debt in this budget than there has been in this nation from 1789 until today.

WELNA: That prompted Oregon House Democrat Peter DeFazio to wonder, on the same show, where the Republican outrage was during the last administration.

Representative PETER DeFAZIO (Democrat, Oregon): During the Bush years, we doubled the national debt in eight years, eight years, spending off the books and tax cuts, and all I hear from the other side is more tax cuts.

WELNA: Mr. Obama's budget plan lets tax cuts for the wealthiest households expire at the end of next year. The Senate's number two Republican, Jon Kyl, told "Fox News Sunday" that's the wrong way to go.

(Soundbite of "Fox News Sunday")

Senator JON KYL (Republican, Iowa): Today, the people that he's talking about, the $250,000 and above, pay 60 percent of the income taxes in the United States, 60 percent. So, how much more do you want this top 2 percent to pay? There's a point at which, when you continue to tax them, they no longer produce the jobs that they're producing in this country.

WELNA: That argument did not fly, though, with White House budget director Peter Orszag. He appeared on ABC's "This Week."

(Soundbite of television program, "This Week")

Mr. PETER ORSZAG (White House Budget Director): I just reject the theory that the only thing that drives economic performance is the marginal tax rate on wealthy Americans, and the only way of being pro market is to funnel billions and billions of dollars of subsidies to corporations. That is the heart of this argument.

WELNA: Heating up today's war of words over the budget was an incendiary appearance last night at the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference by radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Mr. RUSH LIMBAUGH (Radio Talk Show Host): What is so strange about being honest and saying, I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation? Why would I want that to succeed?

(Soundbite of applause)

WELNA: Asked today on CBS' "Face the Nation" about those remarks, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel cast Limbaugh as the leader of a Republican Party gone astray.

(Soundbite of television program, "Face the Nation")

Mr. RAHM EMANUEL (White House Chief of Staff): He is the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party, and he has been up front about what he views and hasn't stepped back from that, which is, he hopes for failure.

WELNA: And yet despite their fighting words, Republicans appear resigned to seeing President Obama's budget approved by Congress. Here's Paul Ryan, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, on "Fox News Sunday."

(Soundbite of television program, "Fox News Sunday")

Representative PAUL RYAN (Republican, Wisconsin): You can't stop this in the House. It is a complete majority rule. It's going to very difficult to stop this in the Senate. Only if a few Senate Republicans - I mean, Senate Democrats, turn, turn their votes and vote with the Republicans can this thing be stopped, in my opinion.

WELNA: Though some Democrats do have misgivings about President Obama's budget, none has announced plans to oppose it. David Welna, NPR News, The Capitol.

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