Political Scene

WHITE HOUSE

OMB’s Lew: Budget will plot deficit control

President Obama’s upcoming budget will lay out a credible plan to lower the U.S. deficit, but the funding gap will grow initially owing to the extension of tax cuts, Mr. Obama’s budget chief said Wednesday.

“The budget will show a very serious path of deficit reduction,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew told Reuters in an interview.

Mr. Obama is under pressure from Republicans to make deep cuts in government spending. Republicans have greater strength in the Senate and control of the House after winning big in November elections after a campaign built largely around fiscal austerity.

The president has received bipartisan recommendations for a bold overhaul of the U.S. tax code and government spending from a commission he appointed, and Lew said that items from that report will be reflected in the budget proposal.

But the president also wants investment to lift U.S. growth and steps that shield a fragile economic recovery. These include a tax package agreed with Republicans in December that will initially make the deficit numbers look worse.

HOUSE

Democrats object to Issa probe’s scope

Some Democrats in Congress objected Wednesday to early steps taken by the new Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to conduct a broad inquiry into President Obama’s promises to improve government transparency.

Reps. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia and Peter Welch of Vermont complained in a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican, that his investigation will burden federal agencies responsible for producing government records under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act requested by citizens, journalists, companies and others. Mr. Cummings is the senior Democrat on the House oversight committee.

Mr. Issa last week demanded details of every such request during the last five years, plus copies of all letters or e-mails between government workers and people with pending requests. He said the effort would make sure that “all federal agencies respond in a timely, substantive and nondiscriminatory manner” to requests for records under the information law. The five-year window would cover part of the Bush administration and the first two years of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

In their letter to Mr. Issa on Wednesday, the Democrats said the investigation would require government offices to turn over perhaps hundreds of thousands of documents.

“Without a defined focus, your inquiry will place a significant burden on FOIA offices and divert limited staff from processing requests from the public,” they wrote.

ECONOMY

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