Voters are divided on whom they like in the great debates over the budget and spending cuts.
By 45-37 percent, they blame congressional Republicans more than Obama for the recent failure to find a better alternative to reducing deficits than the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts now taking effect. Twelve percent said both shared the blame equally.
Yet by 44-42 percent they prefer the Republican approach to curbing the deficit. Seven percent preferred neither way.
Senate Democrats say they will soon pass their first budget in four years, but it is proving a test.
Disputes over tax cuts, spending reductions and entitlement reform all present challenges to Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
The Democrats’ narrow 12-10 majority on the panel means one defection would mean failure, if Republicans stick together as expected…
They have signaled that their budget will do more to raise revenue than to cut spending and that it will not end deficits. In a memo, Murray adumbrated the justification for this by noting that Congress has already approved $1.8 trillion in spending cuts since 2010 but only $600 billion in new taxes.
What the proposal is unlikely to do is lay out a detailed blueprint for cutting the federal health entitlement programs that drive the country’s long-term deficit. “Our budget is going to reflect the need to deal with our long-term health care costs without impacting our beneficiaries in a way that puts us in a place where people can’t sustain their own budgets at home,” Murray tells National Journal. Two recent budget memos, circulated to Senate Democrats, emphasized the need for revenue and barely mentioned the health programs…
Ryan’s draft budget proposal is already freaking out moderates in the GOP caucus, whereas Murray’s goal is to craft something that can attract broad support within the Senate Democratic Conference—from liberal members on her own committee, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to the handful of centrist members facing tough reelection battles in 2014. So, by political necessity, her budget is designed to be vague.
It’s the only way Murray can rally her Senate colleagues and prove her worth as a good soldier for the leadership. A budget that alienates Democrats on her committee and fails to get a floor vote would be a political disaster.
President Obama is unlikely to balance the budget when he releases his budget blueprint next month.
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday said Obama’s budget will seek to put the U.S. on a “fiscally sustainable path” that brings the deficit below 3 percent of gross domestic product.
He said Obama’s proposal would not attempt to hit an arbitrary target, however, and that it will only project over the next decade…
“It should not be deficit reduction for deficit reduction’s sake. The goal here should be economic growth and job creation,” Carney said.
For years, Democrats have been protecting entitlement programs led by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from any serious reforms while advocating tax hikes on wealthier Americans. The inherent problem with this approach comes down to math. Though Republican budgets have acknowledged that major reforms of Medicare are needed to address the nation’s long-term fiscal imbalance if taxes are to remain at historical levels, Democrats have refused to admit that making their vision of a generous welfare state remotely sustainable would require massive middle class tax hikes…
Unfortunately, according to the National Journal, Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray’s budget is “expected to offer only broad outlines of many of the (Democratic) party’s usual talking points.” According to the report, Murray’s budget will raise taxes, call for more economic stimulus spending, largely ignore reforms to entitlements, undo automatic spending cuts (i.e. sequestration) and rely on phony savings such as winding down the war in Afghanistan (as if the nation would otherwise be at full strength in Afghanistan for the next decade).
So, after four years of avoidance, Senate Democrats are finally putting out a document called a “budget.” But it’s unlikely to represent a serious attempt to get the nation’s debt problem under control.
Inevitably, if there is an agreement on a big deal, Democrats will have to get on board for it to pass. But the 2012 election brought in new Democratic members of the House and Senate who are more liberal and more outspoken, strengthening the left wing of the caucus.
One hundred and seven of the 200 House Democrats signed a letter to Obama threatening to vote “against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits — including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”
Instead, they want the White House to “rely on economic growth and more fair revenue-raising policies to solve our fiscal problems,” like getting rid of subsidies for big businesses and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
“I only know one thing: I’m against cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House. “I don’t really care who is pushing it. It doesn’t matter who says it’s a good idea. It’s a bad idea.”
“The majority of the debate will be on the direction each side wants the take the country. Obviously Democrats want to raise taxes and increase spending,” the GOP aide said. Probably when the debate “hits the floor there will be a traditional vote-a-rama — an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink-exercise where both parties propose amendments on various topics.”…
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham last week that he was looking forward to the budget debate, noting that Democrats have been able to blast unpopular parts of the budget plan outlined by House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin.
“We had no Democratic budget to criticize. This year, they’re going to pass one. It can be done with a simple majority,” the Kentucky Republican said. “They have enough votes, but it’ll be quite a debate.
“It will be replete with tax increases, and it will be on the Senate floor the week after next. We will have a number of amendments to it, but nothing kind of underscores the difference between the two parties like one of them having to produce a budget,” McConnell continued.