- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bowing to stiff opposition on Capitol Hill, President Obama on Tuesday backed away from his call to deal with climate change as part of the budget, saying he never expected to get everything he asked by demanding that Congress use its major spending blueprint to act on health care, education, alternative energy and deficit reduction.

In a prime-time press conference, the second of his presidency, Mr. Obama pushed to keep alive as many of his campaign promises as possible. He told lawmakers that his ambitious budget that funds those priorities is “inseparable” from their goal of putting the economy on sound footing.

“I want to see health care, energy, education and serious efforts to reduce our budget deficit,” Mr. Obama said.

He acknowledged that Congress won’t “simply Xerox” his plan but drew lines in the sand as lawmakers this week lay out counterproposals to the president’s $3.6 trillion 2010 budget. Mr. Obama travels to the Capitol on Wednesday to urge Senate Democrats to back his blueprint.

While taking 13 questions and allowing repeated follow-ups from reporters, the president talked about wrestling with the moral and ethical dimensions of his decision to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, defended the U.S. dollar as the foundation of the world economy and said Americans are rightly judging him on his performance, not his race.

See related analysis: BELLANTONI: Budget ‘sold’ as central to recovery

In the six weeks since his last press conference, Mr. Obama has seen Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner battered by criticism over corporate bonuses in companies taking a taxpayer-funded bailout, has signed a $410 billion catch-all spending bill in private while promising in public to try to control spending, and has said he will try to rev up his campaign supporters to push for his budget.

“I’m as angry as anybody about those bonuses,” said Mr. Obama, though he blamed them on a broken corporate culture and said they happened before his administration took office. He said he purposely delayed his own outraged reaction as he tried to gather his thoughts.

“It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak,” he said.

On climate change, Mr. Obama yielded to pressure from lawmakers on Capitol Hill who told him not to try to pursue his carbon emissions cap-and-trade program through the budget.

The president said he understands that Congress needs to hash out the details and that he expects the regular legislative process, which means the plan is subject to a filibuster. Legislation protected by the budget would have needed only a majority vote.

“Our point in the budget is: Let’s get started now. We can’t wait. And my expectation is that the energy committees or other relevant committees in both the House and the Senate are going to be moving forward a strong energy package,” Mr. Obama said. “It will be authorized. We’ll get it done. And I will sign it.”

He did not back away from his proposal to limit the income tax deductions that the wealthy can take for making charitable contributions - a plan both Republicans and Democrats say is likely dead - and to cut the interest deduction for mortgages.

He contradicted a study by the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University that calculated charitable contributions could drop by 5 percent under the plan.

Mr. Obama, obviously prepared to talk in depth about the dominant issue of the economy, repeatedly pointed to his budget as the solution for the country’s long-term problems.

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