Video: Battle over Obama’s budgets wages on

  1. Transcript of: Battle over Obama’s budgets wages on

    NATALIE MORALES, anchor: The battle of the budget rages on with President Obama vowing to veto any new legislation he finds, quote, "disruptive." NBC 's chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd is in Washington . Chuck , good morning.

    CHUCK TODD reporting: Good morning, Natalie . There -- look, there are two budget fights going on in Washington right now. Today, House Republicans are continuing their effort to try to slash $60 billion from this year's budget, something that the White House has promised the president will veto, which could lead to a government shutdown in a few weeks. Meanwhile, the president is still defending his budget proposal for next year and the fact that he did not attempt to tackle the long-term debt problems this country faces. Here he is at yesterday's press conference on that.

    President BARACK OBAMA: This is not a matter of you go first or I go first. This is 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.

    TODD: Meanwhile, Natalie , today is Press Secretary Jay Carney 's first press briefing as the new press secretary.

    MORALES: You're going to be tough on him, I'm sure.

    TODD: All right.

    MORALES: Chuck Todd there at the White House for us. Thank you, Chuck .

By
updated 2/16/2011 11:17:46 AM ET 2011-02-16T16:17:46

On a collision course over spending, House Republicans advanced a sweeping, $61 billion package of budget reductions on Tuesday despite a veto threat and a warning from President Barack Obama against unwise cuts "that could endanger the recovery."

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Congressional Democrats said the Republican cuts would reduce U.S. employment rather than add to it and leapt to criticize when House Speaker John Boehner said "so be it" if jobs are lost among the ranks of federal employees.

Boehner on possible fed job losses: 'So be it'

Spending legislation must be signed into law by March 4 to prevent a government shutdown that neither side says it wants.

The GOP bill, separate from the 2012 budget Obama unveiled on Monday, covers spending for the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30.

Video: How Obama is handling budget criticism

The current legislation would affect domestic programs ranging from education and science to agriculture and parks, and it marks the first significant attack on federal deficits by Republicans elected last fall with the support of Tea Party activists. Passage is likely by week's end in the House, but a frosty reception is expected later in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

First round in politically defining struggle
For all the maneuvering, the measure is merely a first round in what looms as a politically defining struggle that will soon expand to encompass Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the large government programs that provide benefits directly to tens of millions.

Story: Obama: U.S. budget challenges demand compromise

"We know we can't balance this budget simply by reducing nonsecurity, nondefense spending," said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, referring to the 359-page bill that would cut $61 billion from domestic programs.

"But as the saying goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This is that first step."

The measure is sweeping in its scope, cutting spending from literally hundreds of domestic budget accounts and eliminating many others. At the same time, Pentagon spending would rise from current levels.

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In a reflection of Tea Party priorities, earmarks are banned in the bill. And in a fulfillment of a promise that Republicans made to the voters last fall, about $100 billion would be cut from funds that Obama requested for the current fiscal year.

Dems argue GOP plan is dangerous
While Republicans touted their legislation as an essential step toward deficit control, Democrats argued it was dangerous.

"With severe and indiscriminate spending cuts, it goes too far. This legislation will destroy American jobs while harming middle class families, young adults, seniors and, yes, even our veterans," said California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader.

Obama tries to hit the reset button on budget message

At a White House news conference, Obama said he looked forward to working with lawmakers in both parties on the spending bill, which he noted includes funding to allow the government to remain in operation after existing authority expires on March 4.

At the same time, in an apparent reference to the GOP campaign promises for $100 billion in cuts, he said, "I think it is important to make sure that we don't try to make a series of symbolic cuts this year that could endanger the recovery."

White House threatens veto
A few hours after Obama spoke, the White House issued a formal statement expressing "strong opposition" to the legislation.

It threatened a veto if the bill "undermines critical priorities or national security or curtails the drivers of long-term economic growth and job creation."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dispatched a letter to key lawmakers that said the cuts recommended for humanitarian assistance "will be devastating to our national security, will render us unable to respond to unanticipated disasters and will damage our leadership around the world."

The Environmental Protection Agency, a favorite target of conservatives, is ticketed for a 29 percent cut from last year's levels. The Food and Drug Administration budget would decline by 10 percent, and spending would also fall by 10 percent for the government's principal nutrition program for pregnant women and children.

Republicans used their first major spending bill to reflect conservative priorities on a range of issues, from abortion to the environment.

Video: Obama defends budget (on this page)

The bill would prohibit federal funding for any private organization that uses its own funds to facilitate abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

It also would block the administration from terminating plans for a nuclear waste site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada — a direct challenge to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Additionally, the EPA would be barred from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from factories and other stationary sites.

Conservatives said they would attempt to add other policy requirements to the legislation during floor debate, including one to prevent the implementation of the year-old health care law.

Others are backed by affected industries. One would stop the Federal Communications Commission from enforcing its proposed new "network neutrality" policy, which prohibits phone and cable companies from interfering with traffic on their broadband networks.

A second would block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from factories and other stationary sources.

Budget fight heats up
After a six-week period of preliminary skirmishes, this week's events mark a quickening in the pace of developments in the budget fight that appears likely to dominate Congress' attention for the year.

While the bill on the House floor is essentially mop-up legislation for the current fiscal year, Obama released his budget for next year on Monday and Republicans are expected to counter with their own spending blueprint later this spring.

Additionally, officials said Senate Democrats agreed in a closed door meeting during the day to support one element of Obama's budget, a call for a five-year freeze across hundreds of domestic programs. Some accounts would face cuts to allow for growth in others.

A formal announcement is expected on Wednesday.

The president has drawn criticism for omitting the far-reaching deficit-cutting changes a presidential commission discussed late last year, principally in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

At his news conference, he said he hopes to work with lawmakers in both parties on the issues, and added, "If you look at the history of how these deals get done, typically it's not because there's an Obama plan out there. It's because Democrats and Republicans are both committed to tackling this issue in a serious way."

House Republicans issued a statement that promised to take the first step.

"Our budget will lead where the president has failed, and it will include real entitlement reforms," said the GOP leaders.

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

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