Jeff Sessions, Paul Ryan
J. Scott Applewhite  /  AP
The Senate Budget Committee's top Republican, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, right, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., give the GOP response to President Obama's budget submission for Fiscal Year 2012, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Monday.
updated 2/15/2011 2:40:43 PM ET 2011-02-15T19:40:43

Republicans on Tuesday disparaged President Barack Obama's proposed $3.7 trillion budget for next year for taking a pass on tackling long-term deficits by not calling for structural changes in big-ticket entitlement programs for the elderly.

"In our nation's most pressing fiscal challenges, the president has abdicated his leadership role," said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis. "When his own commission put forward a set of fundamental entitlement and tax reforms ... he ignored them."

Obama to critics: Budget leadership requires cooperation

Obama told a news conference that the budget he sent Congress will help meet his goal of cutting the deficit in half by the end of his first term. He said he looked forward to negotiations with Republicans in coming months on how to fix Social Security and Medicare.

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Video: Inside Obama’s budget proposal (on this page)

"This is not a matter of, 'you go first, I go first,' " he said. "It's a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go and then ultimately getting in that boat at the same time so it doesn't tip over."

House Republicans, meanwhile were eager to launch a weeklong debate on their own package of deep cuts in domestic spending for the current fiscal year.

Story: Comparing Obama's plan with his commission's

Eager to please their conservative Tea Party supporters, Republicans are championing $61 billion in cuts to hundreds of programs for the remaining seven months of this federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, under a bill the House planned to debate Tuesday. AmeriCorps and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be completely erased, while deep cuts would be carved from programs for feeding poor women and children, training people for jobs and cleaning the Great Lakes.

Reductions of that magnitude this late in a fiscal year would have a jarring impact on many programs. The GOP-run House planned to approve the measure Thursday.

Story: Obama unveils $3.73 trillion budget for 2012

Bitter showdown could lie ahead
The proposed reductions have "showdown" written all over them. Republicans included them in a must-pass bill financing the government, which otherwise runs out of money on March 4. The Democratic-controlled Senate and Obama himself are sure to turn them down.

"We have consistently said it's not our intention to shut down this government," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Monday of one possibility should there be an impasse. "That's political talk and we ought to get that off the table and we ought to go about the real business of trying to cut spending."

Video: Obama's budget blueprint full of red (on this page)

White House budget director Jacob Lew kicked off the administration's defense of its proposed 2012 budget on Capitol Hill with an appearance before the House Budget Committee. Rep. Mike Simpson spoke for most of the Republicans on the panel in saying he doesn't view the proposal — which mostly ignores the recommendations of Obama's fiscal commission — as a serious one.

Lew countered that the Obama plan is a "tough budget" filled with cuts to programs the president himself supports.

Lew downplayed the possibility of a government shutdown.

"If we all work together in a bipartisan way to look for the things we can agree on and take some of the things that we can't agree on off to the side, we can accomplish a great deal," he said.

Alex Brandon  /  AP
Copies of the U.S. Government budget for Fiscal Year 2012 are stacked up at the U.S. Government Printing Office in Washington on Monday.

Obama unveiled his fiscal blueprint a day earlier, a plan that mixes tax increases on the wealthy and some businesses, a five-year freeze on most domestic programs, and boosts for elementary schools, clean energy and airport security. The outline is a first step in what is likely to be a bitter partisan fight as Congress translates it into a parade of tax and spending bills.

Despite its savings, Obama's budget projects a record $1.65 trillion deficit this year, falling to $1.1 trillion next year and easing thereafter. Even so, it stands to generate a mammoth $7.2 trillion sea of red ink over the next 10 years, a number that would be even larger had the president not claimed over $1 trillion in 10-year savings by winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Glaringly missing from the president's budget was a substantial reshaping of Social Security, Medicare and other massive, automatically paid benefit programs that bipartisan members of his deficit-reduction commission had recommended last year. That leaves the nation under a black fiscal cloud as its aging population, prolonged lifespans and ever costlier medical procedures leave the government with enormous I.O.U.'s.

Vote: Does the budget take the right steps?

'The president punted on the budget'
Most Republicans have also shied away from calling for savings from so-called entitlement programs, but that has not stopped them from criticizing Obama's failure to do so. Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee, has called for such reductions, but would not predict whether they would be included in the 2012 spending plan his panel plans to write this spring.

"The president punted on the budget, he punted on the deficit," Ryan told reporters. "That's not leadership, that's an abdication of leadership."

Overall, Obama's budget claims $1.1 trillion in deficit reduction from tax increases and spending cuts over the next decade while protecting some — but not all — programs that Democrats cherish.

By 2021, Obama projects that $844 billion out of the $5.7 trillion federal budget would go toward paying interest on the government's debt. Such interest payments would exceed the size of the entire federal budget in 1983.

Federal budgets often burrow into the minutest details of the bureaucracy, and Obama's was no exception.

The State Department said it expected to save $5.3 million over the next three years by painting the roofs of its embassies and other offices in a heat-reflecting, energy-saving white color. And the U.S. Agency for International Development projected hundreds of thousands in savings by reducing the font size in its documents to reduce paper usage.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Inside Obama’s budget proposal

  1. Closed captioning of: Inside Obama’s budget proposal

    >>> preempt republican criticism, president obama left open the possibility of negotiating a bigger deal on entitlement cuts for real deficit reduction down the road. he also warned today that the recovery is still too fragile for immediate cuts now in the current-year spending. let's get right to "hardball's" host, chris matthews . the one and only chris matthews . we watched the news conference today. chris, he's playing a very delicate game here. he's trying to reassure the markets that he is looking at that deficit reduction commission, looking at entitlements, but not yet, not now. he doesn't want to go first.

    >> right. well, he's riding an upward curve right now in performance. he's performing well as chief executive, with the polling all showing that the market's doing fine. he doesn't want to upset that with seniors and start talking about social security cuts. everyone in that press room, as you know, you've been there so many times, pushes and pushes and pushes. come on, show some courage on entitlements. and the second he went for social security cuts or medicaid cuts, the big stoib would be, he stepped into it, he touched the third rail, he'd be in trouble. so he knows the dynamic, push, push, push until you say, and when you say it, you're a dead man. nobody wins if you stick your neck out in this business. the only way you win is to get together by this chicken game as you mentioned it. back and forth, back and forth, and finally you reach a situation like you did in the '80s where ronald reagan , and we're looking at the white house behind you, ronald reagan and tip o'neill go to the back lawn of the white house , on the south lawn , and put together a social security deal in 1983 . took two years. but what was the dynamic between newt gingrich and bill clinton ? back and forth, the president showed guts, margerie margolis lost her seat.

    >> 1993 .

    >> and he got blown away in '94, brought in newt gingrich , gingrich and the republicans said, cut the deficit, cut the deficit, they worked it out, government shut down, very tricky business , eventually we ended up with a balanced budget . so i think the president and jack lew, his budget director, are looking at the models from the '80s and the '90s.

    >> and it's clear the president does not want to tackle the toughest of the choices. let's watch.

    >> there are always more people who could use some help across the country than we have resources. my goal is to make sure that we're looking after the vulnerable, we're looking after the disabled, we're looking after our seniors, we're making sure that our education system is serving our kids so that they can compete in the 21st century , we're investing in the future, and doing that in a way that's sustainable and that we're paying for it.

    >> at the same time, he was asked about the current cuts.

    >> right.

    >> and he said that the recovery is too fragile.

    >> right.

    >> because that's on the floor right now, on the house side. the appropriations committee has put up a plan and they're talking about cutting huge amounts from very popular programs.

    >> and with what the government is spending between now and february and the end of september. since you only have half the year left, you're going to cut really deep. and i think he says, wait a minute, the republicans might be playing a game here. they might believe in what they're doing, but if we do those cuts now, it will slow the recovery, the republicans will get credit for budget cutting, and i'll get in trouble with the voter for a worse off economy. so i think he's aware of that. he said he was.

    >> let me just run through a couple of things that are on the table right now on the hill. teach for america, norah o'donnell on this show yesterday interviewed wendy kopp . this would be devastating for a program that everyone agrees is working. the corporation for public broadcasting , americorps, the cops hiring program, $122 million from the white house budget, from health and human services , $1.3 billion from job training, $1.1 billion to head start . i mean, we're talking about very popular programs.

    >> yes. and you have to wonder about this. this is where i think the president's being cosmetic rather than real. if you look at the way the president put together the stimulus package , anything that went into that stimulus package was considered good for the economy. it was indiscriminate, but now he comes along and cuts really valuable programs. wait a minute, if it's okay to cut the taxes for the rich, and he went along with that, if it's okay to throw a lot of the cats and dogs and ending that you really don't believe in because it stimulates the economy, why pull back on programs that not only stimulate the economy in the short run, but are valuable? teach for america is probably the most effective program since the peace corps in terms of youthful opportunity to do something good for the country. every young kid, or so many of them we know about, come out of college now, what do they want to do? they can't find a job that's a career building job, so they say, wait a minute, why don't i do something good in the short run and why don't i improve public education somewhere where they don't have a good teacher. and you get the best and brightest teaching in our schools and high schools . it is so powerful, everybody wins . and you're right, i don't know why -- you're suggesting a question here, which i'll answer it. why cut good programs if you go along and increase all that pork barrel spending on other programs.

    >> and that's exactly what's at stake right now in the house. house votes today. thank you very much.

    >> thank you, andrea. as always.

    >> as always. 5:00 and 7:00.

    >> 7:00's the big one. we like people watching at 7:00. it gets the evening flow going. i love that. then they can watch lawrence and rachel and ed. a nice evening for all of us. and the viewer.

    >> sit home and put my feet up.

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