Agenda Is Stacked With Return of Congress, Obama's Budget

The presidential limousine sits outside the Capitol in Washington. The presidential limousine sits outside the Capitol in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

The prospects for renewed talks on a long-term deficit-reduction deal reach a pivotal point this week with the release Wednesday of President Obama’s budget plan, which offers cuts to Social Security and Medicare in the hope of softening Republican opposition to tax hikes.

But even before his proposals have been officially unveiled, Obama is taking political heat from Democrats and liberal groups for compromising too much. And congressional Republican leaders must decide how to respond to Obama’s bargaining, including a determination whether the spending cuts and other concessions offered by the president are, in fact, enough to give ground on their antitax positioning. Their initial responses have not been warm.

Lawmakers, returning from their two-week recess, will pore over details of what Obama proposes, seek to gauge constituent reaction, and hold hearings with administration officials. The real show, however, could come on Wednesday night, when Obama dines again with Senate Republicans, the second time in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, gun control, immigration reform, and confirmation hearings for several Obama administration nominees are other topics that will grab the spotlight this week in the House and Senate. Activities will include:

  • A Senate Budget Committee hearing on Tuesday regarding the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell as Obama’s director of the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Chuck Hagel’s return Thursday to Capitol Hill for the first time in his official capacity as secretary of Defense. He and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey will appear before the House Armed Services Committee.
  • A Senate Environment Committee hearing on Thursday on the confirmation of Gina McCarthy as Obama’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • A Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday on confirmation of Ernest Moniz as the president’s nominee for Energy secretary.
  • A House Rules Committee meeting Wednesday to consider procedures for a floor vote on a bill to freeze the work of the National Labor Relations Board if it does not have a full quorum, a response by Republicans to complaints that Obama overstepped his bounds last year by appointing board members without Senate consent.

In a reversal of the usual process, in which the president's budget arrives first, the GOP-led House and the Democratic-controlled Senate have already passed vastly different budgets this year. Obama's spending plan for fiscal 2014 is arriving late, thanks to protracted battles over the fiscal cliff and sequestration, administration officials say.

Obama may be floating potential budget savings in Medicare and other entitlement programs in an effort to convince Republicans to renew talks over a larger bargain, one that goes beyond just the next fiscal year’s finances.

Such a bargain would seek to end Washington’s chronic budget impasses with a multiyear plan to shrink the deficit, while securing an agreement to raise the debt ceiling this summer and avoid defaulting on the nation's debt. Talks over such a deal came undone last year when the president insisted on higher taxes for the rich and corporations.

The president’s Wednesday budget proposal will also include as much as $600 billion in new revenues or tax hikes, and a new formula for calculating inflation that would reduce cost-of-living payments for Social Security benefits for some recipients, an idea referred to as "chained CPI."

Senate Democrats declined to take on entitlements in their budget, and already there are signs Obama may be alienating some in his party by doing so. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Reps. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Keith Ellison, D-Minn., are among those already disappointed.

“Republicans have been trying to dismantle Social Security ever since President [Franklin] Roosevelt proposed it during the Great Depression. We should not try to bargain for their good will with policies that hurt our seniors, especially since they’ve been unwilling to reduce tax loopholes for millionaires and wealthy corporations by so much as a dime,” they said in a joint statement.

For their part, House Republicans don’t appear overly impressed, either. In fact, some are dismayed that the president's budget calls for additional revenue. "If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there’s no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes,” said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a statement.

Read more on National Journal

George E. Condon Jr., Nancy Cook, Coral Davenport, Fawn Johnson, Margot Sanger-Katz, and Sara Sorcher contributed to this report. 

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:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

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