WASHINGTON — President Obama unveiled his 2016 budget proposal today with more than $2 trillion in tax hikes wrapped up in what he called “a broader blueprint for America’s success in this new global economy.”
“Since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two thirds. I’m going to repeat that, as I always do when I mention this fact, because the public oftentimes, if you ask them, thinks that the deficit has shot up. Since I took office, we have cut our deficits by about two thirds. That’s the fastest period of sustained deficit reduction since after the demobilization at the end of World War II. So, we can afford to make these investments while remaining fiscally responsible. And, in fact, we cannot afford — we — we would be making a critical error if we avoided making these investments. We can’t afford not to,” Obama said in defense of the new spending in remarks at the Department of Homeland Security today.
“When the economy’s going well, we’re making investments. And when we’re growing, that’s part of what keeps deficits low, because the economy is doing well. We’ve just got to be smarter about how we pay for our priorities, and that’s what my budget does.”
But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the proposal bites off way more than it can digest.
“The president’s budget calls for over $2 trillion in new taxes, adds more than $8 trillion to our out-of-control national debt, and never balances,” Cornyn said. “After six straight years of trying to have it all and losing control of both the House and Senate in the process, it’s time for the president to try something new: listening to the American people.”
Obama also wants to “end sequestration and fully reverse the cuts to domestic priorities,” saying his plan would “replace mindless austerity with smart investments that strengthen America.”
He vowed to veto any budget from Congress that keeps sequestration cuts in place.
“America can’t afford being short-sighted,” the president said. “And I’m not going to allow it.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said he was still reviewing the fine print, but welcomed an end to sequestration as it “never should have become law.”
“Failing to follow through with the president’s plan to eliminate sequestration would be a drag on economic growth and job creation at a time when all efforts must be used to expand economic opportunity,” Cardin said.
Obama says he’ll pay for all of his new infrastructure spending “through a combination of smart spending cuts and tax reforms.”
“Now, I know there are Republicans who disagree with my approach, and I’ve said this before. If they have other ideas for how we can keep America safe, grow our economy while helping middle-class families feel some sense of economic security, I welcome their ideas,” he said. “But their numbers have to add up.”
Some of the goodies in the $4 trillion budget were highlighted in his State of the Union address, such as increasing the tax credit for child care, expanding child care, and extending the “second-earner” credit to households in which both spouses bring home paychecks.
In education, the budget provides tuition-free community college to “responsible” students and “extends and expands evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs, which enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services to support the child’s health, development, and ability to learn.”
The budget includes a $478 billion, six-year surface transportation expenditure and funds defense at $561 billion.
“There is no doubt that the nation’s security requires more spending than is permitted under the current levels. Meeting the nation’s needs, however, requires a commander in chief who is willing to work with Congress to solve the problem rather than continue on the campaign trail,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said.
“Overall, the president’s budget includes many proposals that he knows will never pass in Congress. And yet, in spite of the growing threats to our national security, the president continues to give speeches that polarize the country and Congress,” the chairman added, noting the committee would “help develop a serious budget proposal” to face today’s security challenges.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said “the fantasies underlying President Obama’s budget reveal the devastating extent of his misunderstanding of basic economics.”
“While I’m glad President Obama is finally beginning to realize that we need to invest more in our national defense, his proposed increase is not enough to undo the significant damage that sequestration is having on our military readiness and capabilities,” Rubio said. “Defense spending should be prioritized in our budget and allocated irrespective of non-defense discretionary spending.”
Obama’s proposal also sinks $1 billion into an economic strategy for Central America, $14 billion “to support cybersecurity efforts across the government,” and more than $100 million to battle domestic heroin addiction.
It counts on reducing deficits through $400 billion in Obamacare savings, $640 billion from “curbing high-income tax expenditures,” and $160 billion in “savings from immigration reform.”
Administration officials clarified that projected savings from immigration reform are “something where the impact would grow substantially over time” after Congress passes a bill to the liking of the White House.
Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan told reporters today that “comprehensive immigration reform is actually one of the most critical things that we can do to shore up the long-term solvency of Social Security and as a result, to improve our deficit challenges in the long run.”
“And in fact, you might’ve seen last week that just from the executive actions that the president took late last year, there is a positive impact on the Social Security trust fund, because of additional payments that come into that,” Donovan said. “And so comprehensive immigration reform on a much larger scale would improve that.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) took a look at the proposal and declared “there is a lot to like here for both sides of the aisle.”
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called it “another top-down, backward-looking document that caters to powerful political bosses on the left and never balances—ever.”
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said he’s “disappointed that the budget request does not adequately support the programs that will take us farther into space to destinations like Mars.”
“In fact, his budget cuts human space exploration and planetary science,” Smith said. “The Obama administration continues to include costly distractions –- such as climate funding better suited for other agencies, and an asteroid retrieval mission that the space community does not support.”
Obama strategically chose DHS as his speech location to take a dig at congressional Republicans for attempting to defund his immigration executive actions in the appropriations bill. The department’s funding expires at the end of the month; a cloture vote on the bill is expected Tuesday in the Senate.
“Just a few weeks from now, funding for Homeland Security will run out. That’s not because of any this department did; it’s because the Republicans in Congress who funded everything in government through September except for this department, and they’re now threatening to let homeland security funding expire because of their disagreement with my actions to make our immigration system smarter, fairer and safe,” Obama said.
“Now, let’s be clear. I think we can have a reasonable debate about immigration. I’m confident that what we’re doing is the right thing and the lawful thing. I understand they may have some disagreements with me on that… if Republicans let Homeland Security funding expire, it’s the end to any new initiatives in the event that a new threat emerges. It’s the end of grants to states and cities that improve local law enforcement and keep our communities safe.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said today that he’s “eager” to begin the debate.
“Not just because we have only twenty-five days before the current budget authority for DHS expires,” Lee said. “But also because this debate will finally allow the American people to see where their elected representatives in the Senate stand on President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration.”