Lawmakers dig into White House budget
Deficit projections mean even Democrats are looking for ways to trim, some of them gimmicky.
Moving at a sprint pace, Congress is closing in on a budget resolution for fiscal year 2010 that sets a road map for President Obama’s $3.67 trillion budget.Skip to next paragraph
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The good news for the White House is that the priorities emerging from the House and Senate budget committees this week mainly pattern his own.
But the differences – and there are many – set up an early test of the new administration’s ability to hold Democrats in line while attracting enough Republican support to sustain a working majority on tough votes.
On the most essential items – budget priorities and the bottom line – House and Senate negotiators came out of markups this week remarkably close to the White House numbers.
The House version, which cleared the Budget Committee on a 24-to-15 party-line vote, proposes a $3.55 trillion budget. At press time, the Senate Budget panel was on track to approve a $3.53 trillion top budget line.
That translates into $7 billion less in discretionary spending than the Obama budget on the House side and $16 billion less in the Senate.
Those numbers could come back up in a conference to reconcile House and Senate versions of the budget resolution.
Both House and Senate budget panels were under pressure to make adjustments in the Obama budget after the Congressional Budget Office scored the 10-year deficits of the Obama budget at $9.3 trillion.
One casualty of the cuts was the president’s “Making Work Pay” tax credit, a campaign pledge that provides up to $400 for working individuals and $800 for married taxpayers filing joint returns.
The White House budget proposed $525 billion over 10 years to cover the cost of the tax credit. House and Senate budget panels both zeroed out funding beyond 2010.
“Make Work Pay is already preserved for two years in the stimulus bill. Beyond that, we have to say it has to be offset,” said Sen. Kent Conrad (D) of North Dakota, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee.
House and Senate panels also failed to fund the $250 billion set-aside in the White House budget to fund the Troubled Asset Relief Program – an especially sore point on Capitol Hill since disclosure last week of $165 million in retention bonuses to employees at bailed-out insurance giant American International Group.
An early casualty of the budget process this week is transparency – a signature Obama issue.
The president proposed a 10-year budget that clearly signaled an explosion of deficits and national debt in the last five years. Both House and Senate budget panels opted for a five-year window.