- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The top House Democrat on the Agriculture Committee punctured yet another hole in President Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget proposal Wednesday, saying the president’s plan to save money by reducing farm payments is “more than dead on arrival.”

Rep. Collin C. Peterson’s opposition to the plan is the latest in a series of Mr. Obama’s key tax-raising and budget-cutting plans to face opposition from powerful members of his own party.

Mr. Peterson, Minnesota Democrat, scoffed at a proposal to eliminate direct payments to farmers earning more than $500,000 annually as a misguided idea from “some bean counter over at [the Office of Management and Budget].”

“This is a very stupid idea,” Mr. Peterson said Monday at a farmers convention. “If you got a 100-cow dairy, you’re probably going to have over a $500,000 gross [income]. So you’ll probably surprise the Minnesota 100-cow dairyman that he’s a millionaire.”

Mr. Peterson, a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat, said he has personally expressed his views to Mr. Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“I had a good conversation with Rahm and Biden,” he said, adding that the discussion with the president was “very short.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Vilsack said the administration looks forward to discussing the proposal with Congress.

“In these difficult economic times, tough choices have to be made and responsibility for our future has to be shared. This proposal will target payments to those who need it most while making real investments in rural America and providing strong support for family farmers,” Nayyera Haq said.

In his speech before a joint session of Congress last month, Mr. Obama said all sides will have to sacrifice favored programs to bring the deficit under control, but the opposition to farm payment cuts underscores just how difficult that will be, with every program in the federal budget having support of at least some members of Congress.

Other provisions in the budget that Mr. Obama said would help save $2 trillion over 10 years have drawn similar rebukes. Rep. Charles B. Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, last week questioned the wisdom of a proposal to limit the charitable deductions of wealthy taxpayers.

“I would never want to adversely affect anything that is charitable or good,” the Associated Press quoted the New York Democrat as saying.

In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, and Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, have expressed reservations about the charitable deduction changes.

Other Democrats, like Rep. Jane Harman of California, have said they are worried about the budget’s impact on the debt.

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