Black Lawmakers Join GOP In Slamming Obama's Budget Plan : It's All Politics Critics say proposal would balance budget at the expense of the poor, minorities.
NPR logo Black Lawmakers Join GOP In Slamming Obama's Budget Plan

Black Lawmakers Join GOP In Slamming Obama's Budget Plan

Barely 24 hours after President Obama unveiled his proposed 2012 budget, the chorus of boos grew Tuesday beyond the Republican side of the aisle to some of his core supporters.

The Congressional Black Caucus lambasted the president's plan as an attempt to gut government's safety net for the most vulnerable citizens, particularly African Americans. Members of the caucus, made up almost entirely of Democrats, accused Obama of succumbing to a Republican agenda that would harm the neediest to pay for last December's tax cut for the wealthiest.

In delivering its salvo at the president, the caucus held a press conference on a day when Obama made his case for the budget in a White House morning briefing.

"We should have been more honest with the American people last year," Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who chairs the CBC's budget task force, said of last year's tax cuts. "We can do better, and that's why the Congressional Black Caucus is going to be fighting against these draconian cuts in programs that are so important to so many people."

Obama's plan would cut $300 million from community development block grants, the biggest funding source enabling local governments to deliver everything from economic development to road repairs to law enforcement resources — particularly in communities with heavy concentrations of poor and minority residents.

The president also wants to slash half the $350 million in annual spending on community service block grants, which aid the poorest children and families. (The change also would convert the program into a competitive grant process.)

In his briefing earlier on Tuesday, the president said he and Congress must make "tough choices" to find cuts and "definitely feels folks' pain" about many of his proposed reductions. He said he anguished over slashing block grants and other such initiatives.

The caucus, as it does every year, is preparing its own alternative budget aimed preserving funding for programs such as job training, unemployment insurance and block grants.

Caucus chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) said Scott and other caucus members drafting the alternative budget already have found ways to reduce the deficit but not "on the backs of the most vulnerable."

Scott said the majority of Americans don't want cuts on safety net programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—none of which Obama addressed in his budget plan, drawing ire from congressional Republicans.

House GOP leaders on Tuesday said their 2012 budget proposal would include some effort to reform the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid entitlements.

In a statement, they said, Obama's budget, "punts on entitlement reform and actually makes matters worse by spending too much, taxing too much, and borrowing too much—stifling job growth today and threatening our economic future.

"Our budget will lead where the President has failed, and it will include real entitlement reforms so that we can have a conversation with the American people about the challenges we face and the need to chart a new path to prosperity."