Amid a flurry of briefings and backgrounders by the White House’s top economic advisers, the administration released President Barack Obama’s final budget proposal on Tuesday.
Senior officials insisted the president is focused on the nation’s challenges and rejected conventional wisdom that the final budget of any president is a lame duck statement that doesn’t really matter. The president’s $4.1 trillion dollar spending plan would go into effect in October of 2016, just months before he leaves office.
“The budget that we’re releasing today reflects my priorities and the priorities that I believe will help advance security and prosperity in America for many years to come,” Obama said as he announced a new cyber security initiative.
And yet, the president released his proposal on a day when much of the nation is focused on the New Hampshire primaries and the intense battle to determine who will next occupy the White House.
This raises the question of just how much attention Obama’s budget plan will get and what he will actually be able to get done.
Obama hopes to make headway on the cybersecurity front.
His plan increases spending to protect Americans from hackers and other threats to $19 billion. Obama called the government’s computer system, repeated targeted by cyber criminals and foreign governments “leaky.”
“Our Social Security system still runs on a COBOL platform that dates back to the 60’s,” the president said.
The president’s proposals call for billions to step up the fight against terrorism, increase investments in clean energy, education, and criminal justice reform. It proposes a $10 per barrel tax on crude oil companies to help fix the nation’s infrastructure and modern transportation systems.
But that tax, billed to oil companies, like many of the president’s initiatives, was rejected even before the budget was made public by Republican leaders.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, who met with the President in the Oval Office last week searching for common ground said, the oil tax would raise the price at the pump by “24 cents a gallon.”
Dismissing the president’s budget Ryan added, “this isn’t even a budget so much as it is a progressive manual for growing the federal government at the expense of hardworking Americans.”
The plan also raises taxes on higher earners by ending some benefits, and hikes taxes on some businesses as well.
The administration insists the budget pays for itself by continuing to reduce the deficit, and with health care costs savings from the Affordable Care Act.
The administration also says that immigration reform, long stalled in Congress, would help reduce help pay for the administration’s proposals by bringing more workers — make that taxpayers —into the economy.
The president is locked in a legal fight with opponents blocking executive orders that he issued on immigration since Congress has refused to act. A final ruling by the Supreme Court could come in time to have an impact on the 2016 elections and the Latino vote.
House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price said the president’s plan is more of the same.
“Like all of his previous proposals, it increases spending by trillions of dollars above what we already cannot afford,” Price said in a statement.
In a sign of how bad relations are between the president and Congress, Rep. Price and his Senate counterpart Mike Enzi did not invite the administration’s budget director to testify before their committees. This breaks a decades old tradition, of the branch controlling the purse strings, listening and debating publicly the executive’s budget plan.
Meanwhile, the administration tries to point out areas where some Republicans have expressed support — cancer research, alleviating poverty and fighting the nation’s opioid drug and heroin epidemic to name a few.
But on Tuesday administration officials said they’re still waiting to hear from the Republicans about where they can work together.