TOPICS > Politics

Obama, Republicans Square Off Over $3.8 Trillion Budget Plan

February 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Unveiling a $3.8 trillion budget blueprint on Monday, President Obama cast the plan as an essential tool to spur economic growth and noted that tough choices would put the country "on a more sustainable fiscal path." Republicans called the plan a "campaign document." Ray Suarez reports.
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GWEN IFILL: This year’s budget battle in Washington was formally joined today. President Obama rolled out his spending plan, and Republicans offered their objections. It set up an election-year fight over austerity vs. spending.

Ray Suarez has that story.

RAY SUAREZ: An annual rite played out at the Capitol this morning: the arrival of the president’s budget blueprint, the price tag this year $3.8 trillion.

Appearing at a community college in Northern Virginia, Mr. Obama cast the plan as an essential tool to spur growth . . .

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: At a time when our economy is growing and creating jobs at a faster clip, we have got to do everything in our power to keep this recovery on track.

RAY SUAREZ: . . . and as a responsible plan to bring down overspending after four straight years of trillion-dollar deficits.

BARACK OBAMA: I’m proposing some difficult cuts that, frankly, I wouldn’t normally make if they weren’t absolutely necessary. But they are.

And the truth is, we’re going to have to make some tough choices in order to put this country back on a more sustainable fiscal path.

RAY SUAREZ: In fact, the budget envisions a deficit of $900 billion next year, down $400 billion from this year’s projected total. The president says he would reduce the red ink by $4 trillion over 10 years. That would mean a deficit of $575 billion in 2018.

To get there, the Obama budget would let the Bush era tax cuts for better-off Americans expire at the end of this year. And it would impose the so-called Buffett rule, named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, a minimum 30 percent tax rate on those making at least $1 million a year.

All told, the president wants to raise $1.5 trillion from higher taxes on the wealthy.

BARACK OBAMA: Do we want to keep these tax cuts for wealthiest Americans or do we want to keep investing in everything else: education, clean energy, a strong military, care for our veterans? We can’t do both. We can’t afford it.

And some people go around, they say, “Well, the president’s engaging in class warfare.” That’s not class warfare. That’s common sense.

RAY SUAREZ: The budget also relies on ending tax breaks for oil, gas and coal companies and on winding down military spending in Afghanistan and Iraq. At the same time, major entitlement programs would continue to grow, and the president also laid out new spending today, such as $8 billion to train community college students for jobs.

BARACK OBAMA: By reducing our deficit in the long term, what that allows us to do is to invest in the things that will help grow our economy right now. We can’t cut back on those things that are important for us to grow. We can’t just cut our way into growth.

RAY SUAREZ: For their part, Republicans dismissed the budget today as a litany of failed policies and stimulus ideas that Congress has rejected before. And with the election looming in November, they said the president has issued nothing more than a campaign document.

Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave his review on the Senate floor.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky.: Once again, the president is shirking his responsibility to lead by using this budget to divide us.

The game plan is perfectly clear. Rather than reach out to Congress to craft a consensus budget, the president will take this budget on the road, as he did today, and talk about the parts he thinks audiences will like. What he won’t say is that it’s bad for job creation, bad for seniors, and that it will make the economy worse.

RAY SUAREZ: Republicans also insisted the president’s plan wouldn’t cut deficits, but simply slow their growth, assuming the cuts ever take place.

Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, R-Wyo.: The president is ambushing the American people by promising to cut the deficit by $4 trillion, when in fact over the next 10 years, he adds to the debt by $11 trillion.

Additionally, he has this pretext of trying to help everyone. And, in fact, what his budget does is continues to bury the American people under mountains of debt. The savings that he promises will never occur. And the spending that he demands are things that we just cannot afford.

RAY SUAREZ: House Republicans vowed to give the country an alternative. They plan to release their own budget in the spring.