Obama's 2015 budget proposal prompts clash with Republicans
President Barack Obama proposed new tax credits and job-training programs for US workers today in a 2015 budget that drew instant condemnation from Republicans, who dismissed the document as an election-year campaign pitch.
The $3.9 trillion blueprint for the fiscal year that begins on October 1 also would boost spending on roads and bridges and expand early-childhood education while paying for some of the additional spending by scaling back tax breaks for wealthier Americans.
The proposal has almost no chance of passage in Congress, where Republicans control the House of Representatives, but it lays out Obama's policy priorities ahead of November congressional elections. Democrats will be fighting to keep control of the US Senate and avoid losing ground in the House.
"Our budget is about choices, it's about our values," Obama told reporters during a visit to an elementary school.
"At a time when our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years, we've got to decide if we're going to keep squeezing the middle class or if we're going to continue to reduce the deficits responsibly while taking steps to grow and strengthen the middle class."
While working within the overall cap of $1.014 trillion for discretionary spending that Congress set for 2015, the president proposed $56 billion in additional spending for education, welfare and defense programs, paid for in part by ending a tax break for wealthy retirees.
Republicans objected to the plan's spending increases and said it did not address larger fiscal challenges related to the Social Security retirement program and Medicare and Medicaid healthcare for the elderly, poor and disabled.
"After years of fiscal and economic mismanagement, the president has offered perhaps his most irresponsible budget yet," Republican House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. "Spending too much, borrowing too much, and taxing too much, it would hurt our economy and cost jobs."
Democrats hope to draw a contrast with the Republicans' focus on fiscal restraint and portray themselves as better able to deliver jobs and growth.
Obama's proposal signaled a shift from last year's emphasis on deficit cutting to a greater focus on fighting poverty, a goal the president is highlighting as he eyes his legacy with fewer than three years left in office.
Republicans, cognizant of Americans' slow recovery from the 2007-2009 recession, also have focused on poverty-reduction but they favor a dramatically smaller government role.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a potential Republican presidential contender in 2016, argued in a report on Monday that the government had barely made a dent in combating poverty in the past 50 years despite massive spending. He blasted Obama's Tuesday proposal.
"This budget isn't a serious document; it's a campaign brochure," said Ryan, who will unveil a Republican budget as a counter to Obama's in the coming weeks.