LIANE HANSEN, host:
New numbers on the federal budget were released yesterday. They came from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimates the cost of the president's budget proposals for lawmakers. The CBO said the government will be close to $2 trillion in the red this year, and that deficits will just keep accumulating over the next decade.
NPR's Andrea Seabrook has the story.
ANDREA SEABROOK: Staggering and devastating - that's what Republican Senator Judd Gregg called the new budget predictions. The CBO says that over the next decade, President Obama's proposal would put the government further into debt, by $9.3 trillion. Gregg's immediate reaction?
Senator JUDD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): It just doesn't work. And what you're guaranteeing is that our kids are going to get a country that they can't afford and that's probably bankrupt.
SEABROOK: Gregg is the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. He says given these new estimates, the Democrats must rethink their big spending plans for the coming year.
Sen. GREGG: It's like being in an airplane and having the fuel light come on, say you got 15 minutes of fuel left, and the pilots decide to fly on for another hour. It simply can't be done.
SEABROOK: But that's not the Obama administration's take on this. Here's White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
Mr. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Press Secretary): The president remains confident that we can pass the budget that he's sent up, making the critical investments that we need, and that we'll have success not just on this but on other legislative initiatives this year.
SEABROOK: In fact, top Democrats in Congress say the new deficit projections help make their case, that big changes are needed in health care, education and energy independence in order to support and grow the economy in the long term. And, points out John Spratt, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Mr. Obama's budget cuts the size of the annual deficit in half in four years.
Representative JOHN SPRATT (Democrat, South Carolina): The president's budget does not flinch, doesn't try to dodge the issue, takes it head-on. But it first recognizes that this big battleship can't be turned around in one year, that the size of the deficit simply cannot be erased in that short a period of time.
SEABROOK: Spratt does say his top priority is minimizing the amount of debt the government accumulates. But the toughest thing for him is thinking back to the late '90s, when deficits were finally under control and everyone talked about the budget surplus.
Rep. SPRATT: We could've been way ahead of the game at this point in time on all of these initiatives that the president is proposing, but for the fiscal policies of the last eight years.
SEABROOK: Democratic leaders are set to unveil their budget proposal in the coming week.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol.
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