Obama rebuffs GOP calls for immediate deep spending cuts

While President Obama is known for campaigning on change, his State of the Union Address offered much of the same rhetoric on fiscal responsibility he has deployed in the past two years. Rather than meeting Republicans half-way on spending after his party's electoral set-back this fall, he asked them to join him in reforming the corporate tax code.

Though Obama called debt reduction a "critical step" in "winning the future," his first public response to House Republicans hell-bent on cutting spending suggested he would fight for his priorities.

It was no surprise that the president called for a spending freeze that was much more limited than the deep immediate cuts Republicans are demanding.

But it was striking that he did not call forcefully for efforts to reach agreement on a credible long-term deficit-reduction plan that would begin after the economic recovery is less fragile.

The president challenged Republicans to expand their focus beyond simply slashing spending and to "make sure what we're cutting is really excess weight" - a veiled reference to Democratic plans to push back against Republicans, who voted today on generalized budget cuts, when they begin to identify specific programs they intend to slash.

The president's proposal for a five-year budget freeze of non-security discretionary spending, which would save $400 billion over 10 years, represents a real reduction in domestic spending over time, but experts don't expect it to survive first contact with a Republican Congress that is demanding some $60 billion or more in immediate cuts. Obama offered a similar spending freeze last year.

But Obama undermined his proposed spending freeze by excluding security spending, entitlements, education and infrastructure and calling for more "investment" in key sectors. While he is ready to find reductions, he is clearly rejecting the idea of limited government.

Instead, Obama asked Republicans, Democrats and the business community to work together on deficit neutral corporate tax reform that eliminates tax expenditures and lowers rates, a project first reported in the National Journal Monday.

While he also offered a willingness to tackle the big long-term fiscal threats, from soaring entitlement costs to the growth of revenue-draining "tax expenditures," the president did not endorse the grand budget bargain crafted by his fiscal commission late last year. That will disappoint some deficit hawks and please progressives who had worried that he might call for cuts in future Social Security benefits.

Obama's emphasis on continuing the cost-cutting measures included in his signature health care legislation, his endorsement of a Social Security solution that doesn't cut benefits or include privatization, and his rejection of lower tax rates for the wealthiest two percent of Americans - a policy he failed to end last year - all demonstrated that he and his political opponents have a ways to go before finding common ground.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.