The House Appropriations Committee chairman said he won’t consider President Barack Obama’s budget request for $56 billion that exceeds the spending limit Congress outlined in December.
Obama’s budget plan sent to Congress Tuesday for fiscal 2015 included the funding for programs including public works and education. Rep. Hal Rogers specifically ruled out considering spending for the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative.
"The answer's no," Rogers, of Kentucky, said in an interview when asked if he would consider the initiative as a supplemental spending bill for next year. The administration argues the $56 billion is paid for with spending cuts and tax increases.
Some Democrats including Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray and Rep. Nita Lowey, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, had suggested Congress should consider the additional $56 billion above the spending cap for next year. Rogers made it clear that won't happen.
"He knew, we knew that we're going to do the number that's written in law," Rogers said, referring to a budget deal in December that settled on a spending limit for the year that begins Oct. 1.
On the other side of the Capitol, the top Senate Republican on the Budget Committee accused the White House of violating the bipartisan agreement on spending limits, a signal of a tough path ahead for the administration’s priorities.
In the first congressional hearing on the budget plan, Sen. Jeff Sessions confronted White House budget director Sylvia Burwell about Obama's proposal to spend $28 billion on public works, education, job training and other "investments," with another $28 billion earmarked for the Defense Department.
"You are spending over what the law requires," Sessions, an Alabama Republican, told Burwell Wednesday.
Obama's budget request was $56 billion above the $1.014 trillion spending limit on discretionary spending that was agreed to in a December budget deal by Murray of Washington state and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Burwell said the spending would be "paid for" by raising taxes and eliminating some tax breaks.
Both sides were anticipating an election-year clash over the budget as Obama pushes Democratic Party priorities and Republicans, mindful of their political base, seek to keep check on spending.
Obama’s $3.9 trillion budget proposal would benefit low-income families, college students, researchers and highway users. In turn, he is asking more from airline passengers, multinational companies and high earners who would pay a "fair share tax" to pick up the tab for the added spending.
It also emphasizes differences with congressional Republicans, who will offer a budget plan of their own.
Burwell defended the White House plan by emphasizing that the deficit for next year is projected at $564 billion, the third year the shortfall would be less than $1 trillion. She said the public debt as a share of the economy would peak at 74.6 percent next year.
"It stabilizes in 2015 and declines" steadily to 69 percent by 2024, Burwell said.
Burwell in the afternoon moved to the House, where she testified before the House Budget Committee, whose chairman, Ryan, plans to issue his own budget in the coming weeks.
Ryan, who earlier called Obama's budget a campaign document, said it was "nothing to write home about."
Rep. Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican, tried to pin Burwell down on whether the budget ever balances. It doesn't do so within 10 years, she replied.
After three minutes of back and forth, Garrett said he could only conclude that it never balances.
In the Senate, Burwell acknowledged that Obama's request exceeded the so-called discretionary spending limit by $56 billion and "will require an amending of the law."
"Are you spending more than the law allows currently?" Sessions asked.
Burwell began an explanation before Sessions cut her off. "Why can’t you say 'yes' or 'no'," he demanded. Burwell replied, "because I think there are some questions that are not simply yes or no questions."
Sessions said, "You’re refusing to answer it, I will answer it. The answer is you're asking us to raise the spending limits by changing the Ryan-Murray law so you can spend even more than you agreed to spend 10 weeks ago, and this is the way a nation goes broke."
Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, said the White House didn't do enough to rein in entitlement programs such as Social Security or Medicare.
"These programs are not sustainable," said Portman, who was director of the Office of Management and Budget under Republican President George W. Bush. He said Obama's answer seemed to be "tax more and more."
Obama's budget plan would continue shrinking the federal deficit while boosting spending for education and infrastructure.
It projects a $649 billion deficit this year. The shortfall is projected to shrink in each of the next three years to a low of $413 billion in 2018 before rising again.
The deficit-to-gross domestic product ratio is projected at 3.7 percent this year, dropping to 3.1 percent next year, a level most economists consider manageable. It measured 9.9 percent when Obama took office in 2009.
The White House emphasized $598 billion in tax increases for the wealthy over 10 years that includes adopting the so-called Buffett Rule, which would impose a "fair share tax" on upper-income families to collect a projected $53 billion over a decade.
Obama proposed raising about $100 billion over the next decade through new taxes and restrictions on U.S. multinational companies.
That would affect digital goods, deductions for "excessive" interest and so-called hybrid arrangements that can lead to income that isn't taxed in any country, according to the budget. In all, the budget plan seeks to raise $276 billion over the next decade from international tax changes — 75 percent more than was sought in last year's proposal.
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