NPR logo House, Senate Panels Whittle Down Obama's Budget


House, Senate Panels Whittle Down Obama's Budget

President Obama headed to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to push for approval of a whopping $3.6 trillion spending plan he says is necessary to pull the country out of a deep recession. But he faces opposition even from within his own party, and House and Senate budget panels are hammering out their own versions of the 2010 budget.

Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters that the panels' versions will bolster administration efforts in education, clean energy and health care.

"They are 98 percent the same as the budget proposal the president sent up in February," Orszag said. The president's visit comes as House and Senate committees begin work on the budget.

Republicans and some Democrats have attacked the size and scope of the proposed budget, saying it will burden the country with debt for years to come. Obama, who won approval for his stimulus plan earlier this year, has said the budget is key to revitalizing the economy.

"The best way to bring our deficit down in the long run is ... with a budget that leads to broad economic growth by moving from an era of borrow and spend to one where we save and invest," Obama said in a Tuesday night news conference.

Article continues after sponsorship

The president's visit comes as the House and Senate committees begin work on the budget, and Obama met with congressional Democrats on Wednesday to bolster support.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, the chamber's No. 2 Republican, said Obama's budget would tax too heavily the small businesses that create a large share of the jobs across the country.

"We've got to provide the relief to the job creators," the Virginia lawmaker said.

Despite the rosy White House assessment of the House and Senate budget blueprints, the Democratic chairmen of both panels have been forced by ballooning deficit estimates to scale back White House requests for domestic programs in their versions.

The House plan would cut $7 billion from domestic agency budgets next year, while the Senate plan would cut $15 billion from those agencies.

The plan from Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) would go further — scrapping Obama's signature tax cut after 2010. Conrad promises to reduce the deficit from a projected $1.7 trillion this year to a still-high $508 billion in 2014. To accomplish that, the Senate plan would end Obama's $400 tax cut to most workers and $800 to couples by the end of next year. Those tax cuts were part of the stimulus package.

In the House, budget Chairman John Spratt Jr. (D-SC) said his plan would employ fast-track procedures to allow Obama's overhaul of the U.S. health care system to pass Congress without the threat of a GOP filibuster in the Senate.

Also under threat are big increases to education and clean energy programs as well as Obama's controversial "cap and trade" global warming initiative, as neither House nor Senate Democrats have directly incorporated it into their budget plans.

The House and Senate blueprints — nonbinding outlines that spell out broad parameters for subsequent legislation — also leave out Obama's $250 billion set-aside for more bailouts of banks and other firms.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that Obama's budget plan would result in red ink totaling $9.3 trillion over 10 years and a deficit of $749 billion in 2014.

Asked by reporters on Wednesday how his brief meeting with Senate Democrats went, the president said only, "It was great."

From NPR staff and wire services