Acknowledging the political challenge of getting Congress to agree to spending cuts of any kind - particularly in an election year - Mr. Orszag cited the administration’s success in achieving most of its proposed cuts last year. For example, he noted, Congress agreed to eliminate the F-22 fighter jet, a program that had eluded previous administrations.
“We are going to fight for the things that we put forward because we believe we need additional job creation now and significant deficit reduction in the out years,” he said.
Robert Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said Mr. Obama couldn’t have gone with deeper cuts or tax increases.
“Had the president proposed major additional budget cuts and revenue increases, not only would Congress almost certainly have rejected them, but the inevitable harsh attacks on them could have ‘poisoned the well’ and made them even harder to achieve in the future if and when a more bipartisan atmosphere makes greater budgetary progress possible,” Mr. Greenstein said.
Although Mr. Obama’s budget projects a deficit of $752 billion in 2015, the White House is counting on a proposed fiscal commission to find a way to balance the budget - excluding debt interest payments - by that time. That means shaving nearly 1 percent of their projected deficit, which amounts to 3.9 percent of the economy, to 3 percent, Mr. Orszag said.
Just one week after the Senate killed a legislative version of the bipartisan commission, officials wouldn’t speculate as to how the yet-to-be-created panel - whose recommendations would be nonbinding - would accomplish the feat. Mr. Orszag said the White House has made clear its preference not to raise taxes on middle-income earners.
“We do face a substantial medium-term deficit problem and what we have said is we put forward proposals to get us part of the way there. The commission will have to get us the rest of the way there,” he said. “We have been very clear about our stance on taxes and frankly on other spending proposals also. The commission hasn’t even been yet named. Let’s let it do its work.”