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Obama’s 2015 budget trades compromise for partisan flavor

BY Terence Burlij and Simone Pathe  February 21, 2014 at 9:23 AM EDT
President Obama traveled to Mexico yesterday for the trilateral North American Leaders summit in Toluca, Mexico. Meanwhile, the White House released details on his newest budget proposal.

President Obama traveled to Mexico yesterday for the trilateral North American Leaders summit in Toluca, Mexico. Meanwhile, the White House released details on his newest budget proposal. Photo by Jewel Samad/Getty Images

Olive branch, rescinded.

President Barack Obama’s forthcoming 2015 budget will not include a proposal to trim Social Security benefits, offered last year in an attempt to draw Republican support for a potential “grand bargain” on deficit reduction.

The Morning Line

Instead, the president will call for tens of billions in fresh spending on domestic priorities aimed at highlighting divisions between the two parties ahead of this year’s midterm elections.

The Wall Street Journal’s Carol Lee and Damian Paletta detail the contours of the administration’s plan:

The proposal—which will serve more as a political treatise than a fiscal blueprint—won’t include a call to slow the growth of Social Security spending by changing how the program accounts for inflation, White House officials said Thursday. Such a change is favored by the GOP and had been included in Mr. Obama’s budget plan last year.

Instead, Mr. Obama’s budget, which will be released in full early next month, will propose $56 billion in new government spending on programs such as education, manufacturing and job training, which would be offset by spending cuts and tax increases on high-income earners.

White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday the decision to leave out the cost-of-living adjustment to Social Security benefits reflected a change in approach on the part of congressional Republicans.

“There was a point in time when there was a little bit more optimism about the willingness of Republicans to budge on closing some tax loopholes,” Earnest said. “But over the course of the last year, they’ve refused to do that.”

Still, Earnest refused to shut the door completely on reaching an agreement with GOP lawmakers, saying the move “does not reflect any reduction in the president’s willingness to try to meet Republicans in the middle and find a balanced way to reduce our deficit.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill had a different take on the administration’s choice.

“This reaffirms what has become all too apparent: the president has no interest in doing anything, even modest, to address our looming debt crisis,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “The one and only idea the president has to offer is even more job-destroying tax hikes, and that non-starter won’t do anything to save the entitlement programs that are critical to so many Americans. With three years left in office, it seems the president is already throwing in the towel.”

Democrats who opposed the president’s decision last year to offer adjustments to Social Security payments praised the turnabout.

“Budget conversations should focus on how we can work to help struggling seniors in this country, not on how to shift the burden to working people and retirees,” Reps. Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said in a statement.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the president’s budget “will be a powerful statement of Democratic principles.”

“In particular, I commend President Obama for his commitment to keeping Social Security strong, and for rejecting Republican calls to cut badly-needed cost of living increases,” he added.

Given the partisan climate in Washington these days and the looming midterm campaign, the odds on any significant legislative action on the deficit were long to begin with. Thursday’s move by the administration simply recognized that reality.

WALKER EMAILS

It would appear that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has survived the initial wave of reports tied to the release of some 27,000 emails to and from a former aide who pleaded guilty in 2012 to working on the Republican’s 2010 campaign while at her government job. The documents were unsealed as part of the former aide’s appeal.

The Washington Post notes that Democrats were eager to get their hands on the documents in hopes they revealed Walker knew about the activities being done on county time.

The investigation, which concluded last year, did not result in charges for Walker, and these fresh emails don’t provide any further indication Walker knew about the email system. But the 2016 GOP presidential hopeful does face another probe into whether or not his 2012 recall campaign coordinated with outside groups.

One of the emailed conversations the Wisconsin Court of Appeals released showed that Walker had ordered a doctor who worked for the county fired because she had previously modeled thongs. Other correspondence revealed racially-charged statements from his two top aides at the county executive’s office. The Fix highlights the six new things the emails reveal about Walker’s time as county executive.

The Journal Sentinel editorial board has called on Walker to hold a news conference to explain how much he knew about the email system and take unlimited questions.

Democrats have seized on the scandal’s flare up in hopes of tying Walker’s troubles to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s lane closure scandal, helping them paint a pattern of Republican abuse of government. Just as the emails were released Wednesday, the liberal super PAC American Bridge 21st Century launched the website JohnDoeWalker.com. The site is intended to expose information about the governor unearthed by two dozen staffers in Washington dedicated to reviewing the 27,000 pages of emails.

LINE ITEMS

  • Frustrated by the Obama administration’s approach to Iran, Syria, Russia and most recently Ukraine, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called Mr. Obama “the most naive president in history” in a radio interview Thursday.

  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry condemned musician Ted Nugent’s inflammatory remarks toward Mr. Obama Thursday. So did Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

  • Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced Thursday that she will not defend the state’s gay marriage ban in court, joining a handful of other attorneys general who refused to defend their states’ laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.

  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie held his first town hall meeting since the George Washington Bridge scandal Thursday with a frustrated constituency.

  • With his ally Montana Democrat Max Baucus having left the Senate, House Ways and Means chair Dave Camp is making one last attempt at achieving a tax code overhaul.

  • In a GOP Senate primary where fiercest opposition to the Affordable Care Act is a selling point, National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher reports that Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston has been receiving state-subsidized health care at the same time he’s attacked his opponents over taxpayer-funded health care subsidies.

  • The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker and Paul Kane looked at how both parties see the 2014 Senate landscape. Politico’s Manu Raju takes a closer look at the Senate race in Michigan.

  • The Post’s Ben Terris hits the trail with former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist as he seeks to win back his old job — this time as a Democrat.

  • Nevada Democrats are still in search of a candidate to take on Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in November.

  • Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, won’t apologize for his controversial remarks about immigrants and thinks they’ve helped clarify the immigration rhetoric coming from the left.

  • Alex Roarty asks why Republicans can’t run campaigns anymore in National Journal Magazine.

  • CBS News’ Stephanie Condon writes that congressional Democrats remain a key obstacle to the president’s push for a pending trade agreement with nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

  • California officials announced Tuesday they exceeded their 2014 health care enrollment goals six weeks ahead of schedule.

  • Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who ran for president in 2012, doesn’t think Americans are ready for a female president.

  • This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference is expected to have a “kinder, gentler” atmosphere writes National Journal’s Beth Reinhard.

  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he’ll appear on “The Tonight Show” if host Jimmy Fallon agrees to take a dip in Lake Michigan but Fallon was skeptical Emanuel would keep his promise.

  • Which Supreme Court justice are you?

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • A report issued Tuesday by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office detailing the effects of raising the minimum wage sparked a heated political debate. Thea Lee, AFL-CIO Deputy Chief of Staff, and David Neumark, a University of California, Irvine economist, joined Judy Woodruff to break down the CBO numbers.


  • Mr. Obama traveled to Mexico this week as the North American Free Trade Agreement turned 20 years old. Carla Hills, former U.S. Trade Representative, and Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch joined Jeffrey Brown to analyze debate surrounding the trade agreement two decades later.


TOP TWEETS

Bridget Bowman and Ruth Tam contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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