Obama Rallies Support As Budget Gets Tweaked

President Obama took his budget agenda to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to round up skeptical Democrats. He seemed prepared to go along with changes as long as Congress' budget preserves down payments on his grand plan.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And soon after he finished that conversation yesterday, Senator Conrad went to see the man whose budget he's trying to restrain. President Obama met with his former Democratic colleagues in the Senate. NPR's David Welna has more.

WELNA: Even before the House and Senate budget panels formally unveiled their own versions of the president's budget, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag was on the phone with reporters insisting these documents were not essentially different from the president's.

Mr. PETER ORSAG (White House Budget Director): They are from the same family as the president's budget. The resolutions may not be identical twins to what the president submitted, but they are certainly brothers that look an awful lot alike.

WELNA: The president himself looked like a man in a big hurry as he arrived for lunch with Senate Democrats.

(Soundbite of shouting)

WELNA: As he left 45 minutes later, the president was only a bit more forthcoming when a reporter asked him how the meeting with the Democrats had gone.

President BARACK OBAMA: Oh, it went great.

WELNA: Indiana's Evan Bayh, who was at the meeting, seemed reassured by what he heard from the president. Bayh heads a recently formed group of centrist Democrats who've expressed misgivings about the budget's huge deficits.

Senator EVAN BAYH (Democrat, Indiana): The tenor was very cooperative. It was non-confrontational, and he was very realistic. He said, look, these are tough financial times and it's going to be difficult to strike the right balance.

WELNA: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said President Obama had made his fellow Democrats feel content and inspired, and Reid expressed no doubts about the prospects for the plan Budget Chairman Conrad has drawn up.

Senator HARRY REID: (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): I'm confident that Senator Conrad will get the budget out of his committee quickly and that the full Senate will pass his budget next week.

WELNA: The top Republican on the Budget Committee, New Hampshire's Judd Gregg, acknowledged that Conrad's budget is likely to pass in the Senate since it's not subject to a filibuster. He belittled the savings in that revised budget, though, calling them the product of old budgeting gimmicks. But Gregg did say this is a budget that matters much more than most.

Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): And this is not an arcane exercise this time. This is not an inside-the-Beltway exercise. The president has laid out a blueprint to move this government dramatically to the left, to significantly increase the role of the government in American society at all sorts of levels, and to dramatically increase its cost and its tax burden and its debt burden on the American people.

WELNA: The House budget panel's top Republican raised a similar red flag about that chamber's budget. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan...

Representative PAUL RYAN (Republican, Wisconsin): With this budget the president and the Democratic majority are attempting very quickly, and rather openly, nothing less than the third and great final wave of government expansion, building on the Great Society and the New Deal.

WELNA: So while some doubting Democrats may end up voting for these budgets, few Republicans seem inclined to do the same.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

MONTAGNE: You just heard Republican Paul Ryan speak of a third great wave of government expansion. We'll have an interview with him tomorrow.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

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.

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

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.