Sadly, this next story probably won't surprise you. The budget deficit looks to be even worse than we thought. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office will release a new estimate today of this year's federal deficit. And the number is expected to hit a staggering $2 trillion. That's hundreds of billions of dollars more than expected just a couple of months ago. NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports.
ANDREA SEABROOK: They new it was going to be bad. Since the last forecast the budget has suffered a kind of one-two punch. Congress passed two huge spending bills, the stimulus package and an omnibus funding measure. And in the meantime the economy only continued its downward slide. That made the predictions of this year's deficit go from bad to worse.
But even though they knew it was coming, the number stings - some $2 trillion of new debt this year. This has the potential to change the political landscape for the Obama administration. Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was bracing herself for the fight this will surely spark.
Speaker NANCY PELOSI (Democrat, California): You can't say we're going to do less because those numbers are pessimistic. You say we have to do what we do in light of those numbers.
SEABROOK: Pelosi said she doesn't think the deficit will be as bad as the Congressional Budget Office will project. The White House's own estimate is somewhat lower at $1.75 trillion. Still, the Obama administration and Pelosi both say they're sticking to their goals, even because the numbers are so bad.
Speaker PELOSI: We have to recognize that education, a change in energy policy and health care reform are what will turn the economy around, bring money to the treasury, make us competitive internationally and put the economy on a much more stable footing as we go into the future.
Representative PAUL RYAN (Republican, Wisconsin): So the speaker is saying more spending and more borrowing. That is definitely not the key to prosperity.
SEABROOK: Paul Ryan is the top Republican on the House Budget Committee.
Representative RYAN: The Bureau of Public Data is telling us that the federal government's going to have to borrow four times as much as we ever have in the history of our country in a single year.
SEABROOK: Ryan and others say this is unknown territory. Deficits have never been so deep. Congress has never spent so much so fast. Some worry about how America's creditors will take this news, especially if the government makes no signs of cutting back. Leading Democrats respond that the crisis is unknown territory, and if the government doesn't pump money into a bad economy, who will?
Still, even before the new deficit projections, President Obama's ambitious and expensive agenda as already drawing a tough eye from fiscal conservatives, like Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois.
Representative MARK KIRK (Republican, Illinois): The American people are absolutely ready for action by the White House to fix the economy and to put Americans back to work. But other priorities, nationalizing health care and on climate change, etcetera, this may not be the time.
SEABROOK: Kirk is part of a key group of lawmakers the Obama administration would like to have on its side, fiscal conservatives but social moderates. To hear Kirk say, this may not be the time, signals a shying away from the Obama administration's big ideas. So while the economy is hemorrhaging, the political will to tackle Mr. Obama's agenda may be bleeding away with it.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.
MONTAGNE: The White House will be breaking ground today on a shovel-ready project close to home, an organic garden on the South Lawn. The garden is about 1,100 square feet and will grow 55 vegetables, including arugula, which was requested by the Obama White House chefs.
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