Is Obama's Budget Gambit Going According to Plan?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 5 2013 12:23 PM

Is Obama's Budget Gambit Going According to Plan?

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President Barack Obama speaks during an event in the East Room of the White House April 5, 2013

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama will officially deliver his budget proposal to Congress next Wednesday, shortly before he sits down for his second dinner date with a handful of Republican lawmakers. The White House, however, gave reporters a preview of the topline numbers today. The big takeaway? Obama will break with the tradition of sending Congress what amounts to a sweeping vision of his in-a-perfect-world spending plans that, in the words of the Washington Post, exist "untethered from political realities."

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Instead, his budget will hew closely to the so-called grand bargain offer that the president made to House Speaker John Boehner last December as the country perched on the edge of the fiscal cliff. Most notably, that means significant cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and fewer tax hikes than he'd like—neither of which will please the left. The scaled-back proposal is being painted as an attempt to avoid the usual GOP response of declaring the president's budget dead on arrival to Capitol Hill. As my colleague Matthew Yglesias explained this morning, it's a risky strategy, one that opens the door for Republicans to say "well, look, we disagree about taxes but why don't we just do these entitlement reforms that even the president thinks we should do."

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So how's it being received by House Republicans? It looks like they see that door. (Via Politico):

House Speaker John Boehner immediately dismissed President Barack Obama’s package of significant new entitlement cuts tied to new tax revenues, calling them "no way to lead and move the country forward." ... Boehner said he will not consider new revenues as part of the deal, arguing that "modest" entitlement savings should not "be held hostage for more tax hikes." ...
Boehner said he was not interested in dealing any more on revenues, citing the higher tax rates on the wealthy Obama pushed through during the January negotiations over the fiscal cliff. The House speaker said as the sequester cut talks broke down that the "talk about raising revenue is over," and he reiterated that Friday.
"The president got his tax hikes on the wealthy with no corresponding spending cuts," Boehner said. "At some point we need to solve our spending problem, and what the president has offered would leave us with a budget that never balances. In reality, he’s moved in the wrong direction, routinely taking off the table entitlement reforms he’s previously told me he could support."

Of course, Boehner's reaction likely wasn't a surprise to the White House or anyone else in Washington. As the New York Times explains, Obama's more moderate budget is designed for a longer game. The plan, administration officials say, is to first pick off a handful of Senate Republicans, and then use the weight of what would then be called a bipartisan budget to pressure Boehner and co. to either return to the table or suffer the political consequences. In the meantime, however, the president will take heat from the left, many of whom will renew past complaints that the president is too willing to negotiate with himself.

For more on exactly what will be in the budget proposal—hello, chained CPI!—head on over to the Washington Post story for the details.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

This post has been updated with additional information.

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