Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday.

Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday. Susan Walsh/AP

Republicans: Obama's Budget Is Providing 'a Good Laugh'

Federal employee groups like the White House's blueprint, but the plan is unlikely to get very far on Capitol Hill.

While federal employee groups praised President Obama’s budget blueprint, Republican lawmakers met it with unanimous rebuke Tuesday, essentially shutting the door on his proposal becoming law.

At a Senate Budget Committee hearing just one day after the White House unveiled its fiscal 2016 budget, Republicans complained Obama’s call to boost federal spending by ending sequester caps -- and to offset that spending with targeted cuts and new tax revenues --  would not do enough to lower the nation’s debt.

“I think the president’s budget is an ideological statement,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. Grassley and his colleagues repeatedly made clear it was not an ideology with which they agreed.

Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan was on hand to support and explain the budget, but he did little to assuage the panel’s concerns.

“You’re doing a good job defending a budget that I think is very hard to defend,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who used to hold Donovan’s position under President George W. Bush.

The document’s reception was no friendlier in the House, with Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, saying at a press conference Tuesday the White House’s proposal provided him with “a good laugh.”

Democrats on the Senate committee -- now in the minority -- applauded Obama for proposing to boost spending, as did groups representing federal employees.

“The administration recognizes that we must end sequestration,” said National Treasury Employees Union National President Colleen Kelley. ”Allowing it to return in fiscal 2016 will devastate federal agencies, which are already struggling.”

Kelley was disappointed, however, in Obama’s proposal to offer federal employees a 1.3 percent pay raise in 2016, arguing the increase will not help workers “meet the rising costs of living and will not do enough to close the gap between federal and private sector pay.” The American Federation of Government Employees, National Federation of Federal Employees, and National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association all criticized the pay increase proposal as insufficient, while expressing support for ending sequestration.

The pay raise proposal, if accepted by Congress, would be the largest for federal employees since the first Obama put forward, which took effect in 2010.

Republicans will have the opportunity to suggest an alternative pay rate in the appropriations process, or in their own budget proposal due for release in mid-April. Senate Committee Chairman Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and his counterpart in the House, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., will take the reins in crafting that proposal.

The Republican blueprint -- which is expected to stay within the spending caps created by the 2011 Budget Control Act -- promises to be much less friendly toward federal employees.  Republicans plan to balance the budget within 10 years without raising revenues, which likely means steep cuts to agency spending. The previous two Republican budgets, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also proposed raising feds’ contribution level toward their retirement pensions and eliminating 10 percent of the federal workforce.

Much like Obama’s proposal, the Republican budget too faces an uphill battle to becoming law.

“You’ll probably like our budget as much as we like yours,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Donovan.