Obama's Dual 2012 Budget Duels

When HUMAN EVENTS asked one of the 85 freshman Republicans in the House this morning what he thought of the President’s just-unveiled $3.7 trillion budget, the response from his press secretary was this:  “He’s reading it right now and hasn’t put out a statement yet.  He will later in the day.”

It’s not difficult to guess what that statement will be.  Almost to a person, freshman Republicans—who comprise about one-third of the GOP majority in the House—are going to oppose the Obama budget.  The chief reasons are also easy to guess:  The new budget proposal coming from the White House “adds $1.1 trillion to the deficit in Fiscal Year 2012, offering more spending, more borrowing, and higher taxes.”  

That quote comes from a press release this morning by the National Republican Congressional Committee.  The salvo from the House GOP campaign arm made it quite clear that doubts about whether the Obama budget would actually cut the deficit and reduce spending in the long run will fuel Republican talk on the political circuit this year.

With special elections being scheduled to fill the vacancies created by resigned House members Jane Harman (D.-Calif.) and Chris Lee (R.-N.Y.), the Obama budget and whether it would do what the White House claims are sure to be fiercely debated in the coming two campaigns.

One of the heated topics of debate on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are the administration’s contention that a freeze in most of the domestic discretionary spending will make a dent in the deficit over the next five years.  In his twilight press briefings at the White House before his farewell performance Friday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs repeatedly told reporters that non-defense domestic discretionary spending will go down to levels not seen “since Eisenhower was President.”

The problem with that, numerous House Republicans have said, is that non-defense domestic discretionary spending is now down to only 15% of the budget.  If the administration gets its way and takes spending related to veterans and homeland security out of the equation, then the percentage is even smaller—as will be the eventual dent in the budget.

Fire over the budget is not just coming from Republicans in Congress, either.  In this morning’s Washington Post, Erskine Bowles, former Clinton White House chief of staff and Democratic chairman of the fiscal commission, says flatly that the White House budget request goes “nowhere near where they will have to go to resolve our fiscal nightmare.”

Liberal Democrats, who were among Obama’s most vigorous backers in the primaries two years ago, are now growing upset about cuts the budget request calls for in community programs and other domestic spending.  In an obvious response to growing concern on the far Left, the White House has scheduled a conference call with reporters by National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and White House senior adviser David Plouffe to discuss “key priorities” in the budget. 

The vote on the 2012 federal budget is a long way off.  But if the early sounds from the Right and Left are any barometer of the attitude on Capitol Hill, it seems a good bet that what will be voted on won’t be anything resembling the budget request that has just come from the White House.