President Obama missed the Monday deadline for submitting a budget to Congress, marking the fourth time in five years he has been late — and in a town where missing deadlines is routine, this one is beginning to get noticed.
The Budget Act requires that he submit a blueprint for taxes and spending by the first Monday in February, but only once, in 2010, has he met that deadline. This year, the White House hasn’t yet said when it will have a plan.
“Focus on substance over deadlines,” White House press secretary Jay Carney urged reporters aboard Air Force One as the president jetted to Minnesota to campaign for stronger gun controls.
But in an ironic twist, the president missed the deadline the same day he signed the aptly named “no budget, no pay” act, which withholds pay from members of Congress if they don’t pass a budget by their own legal deadline of April 15. That was attached to a bill that waives the federal debt limit through mid-May.
Republicans are trying to turn Washington’s focus toward the budget process and what they hope will be a renewed debate on spending cuts.
Bolstered by their success in linking their own pay to their ability to pass budgets, Republicans are going a step further and plan to try to force Mr. Obama’s hand, too.
House Republicans will hold a vote this week that would require Mr. Obama to submit a budget that shows when federal finances will be balanced. If the president sends a plan that doesn’t balance the budget within 10 years, the bill would require him to explain what year the budget would be balanced.
“Since he’s going to miss yet another deadline, President Obama should have plenty of time to develop a budget that comes into balance,” said Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, who is sponsoring the balanced-budget requirement.
Missing deadlines is standard in Washington, and it’s not just the White House. Congress hasn’t passed a budget since 2009, even though the Budget Act says it must do so by April 15 every year.
House Republicans passed budgets in 2011 and 2012, though they never reached final agreement with the Senate, where Democrats haven’t written a budget since 2009.
One problem is that the budget law doesn’t contain any punishment for missing deadlines, which led the Republicans to push their “no budget, no pay” legislation last month and is spawning the balanced-budget requirement.
Democrats said Republicans are relying on gimmicks and objected to the goal of a balanced budget within 10 years.
“It would be really hard to get there within 10 years without harming the economy right now,” said Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, Pennsylvania Democrat. She said even House Republicans’ budget last year didn’t reach balance in 10 years and that it was unfair to impose that now.
Democrats said the House should drop the balanced-budget requirement and instead focus on looming spending fights such as the automatic “sequesters” that the tax deal last month delayed until the end of February.
A number of Republicans have said they want to see those $85 billion in cuts take effect, arguing that it is the only way to get real spending cuts short of agreeing to tax increases.
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, signaled Monday that he has not reached that point.
He said the House has twice passed legislation to replace the cuts, divided between defense and domestic spending, with other cuts, but the Senate rejected those. Mr. Boehner said it is up to Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama to come up with their own option.
“To replace the president’s ‘sequester,’ we need our Democratic colleagues to get serious about spending,” he said. “I wish I could give the American people more cause for optimism, but we see the president’s budget is late, and the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in nearly four years.”
Republicans are reeling from having agreed to a tax-increase deal last month and are seeking a way to force the conversation away from taxes and back onto spending cuts.
Mr. Obama told CBS in an interview hours before the Super Bowl on Sunday that he still wants to focus on tax increases by reducing special deductions and loopholes, along with what he called “smart spending cuts.”
He said there is room to cut health care spending, at the same time as Congress raises taxes by eliminating deductions that he said only the wealthy use, and then to boost spending elsewhere.
“If you combine those things together, then we cannot only reduce our deficit, but we can continue to invest in things like education and research and development that are going to help us grow,” he said.