- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The White House declared victory Wednesday saying the House and Senate budget proposals are “98 percent the same” as President Obama requested, despite congressional budgeteers rejecting some of his proposed spending cuts and his preferred way of attacking global warming.

And Budget Director Peter R. Orszag said the administration will still try to win on issues where Mr. Obama’s budget wasn’t followed, such as getting a long-term middle class tax cut, through a task force the president will set up to overhaul the tax code.

“Yes, there are some differences, but I think the big story is how similar these two things are, rather than the small adjustments,” Mr. Orszag said in a conference call with reporters to evaluate the budget.

Mr. Obama planned to visit with Senate Democrats Wednesday to pitch his plan in person, a day after he held a prime-time press conference to make his case to voters.

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Mr. Orszag said Congress has followed Mr. Obama’s lead in pursuing an expansion of health care coverage, funding alternative energy research and to boosting education spending, all while reducing the deficit to less than half of this year’s figure by 2013.

But House Democrats’ budget trims the president’s 2010 budget request by about $100 billion and does instruct Congress to overhaul health care and spend on education, but does not include language that would make it easier to pass the president’s preferred carbon cap-and-trade approach to global warming.

House Democrats also eliminated money for any future financial bailout, and cut Mr. Obama’s tax cut proposals.

Senate Democrats’ budget makes many of the same changes. Both budget committees are meeting Wednesday to debate the blueprints.

Oddly, the White House’s claims of success got agreement from Republicans, who were eager to tie their congressional Democratic colleagues to Mr. Obama’s budget, which they see as an unpopular flood of spending.

“With this budget, the President and the Democratic Majority are attempting - very quickly, and rather openly - nothing less than the third and final great wave of government expansion, building on the New Deal and the Great Society,” said Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the top Republican on the House Budget Committee.

The administration said it calculated its budget and the congressional proposals were 98 percent the same by looking at the difference in 10-year spending. OMB said that out of $32 trillion in total spending and revenue over the next decade, the House and Senate proposals differ by $600 billion from Mr. Obama’s plan, or less than 2 percent.

Mr. Orszag said the president also is creating a task force to report on ways to streamline the tax code and cut down on an estimated $300 billion a year in unpaid taxes. A report is due to the president by Dec. 4.

The task force also will try to sort out myriad tax credits in the tax code, which will give Mr. Obama another chance to try to put his “make work pay” tax credit on long-term firm footing. The first two years of the tax credit were included in the stimulus spending bill, but Congress’ budget proposals did not envision continuing the tax credit beyond that.



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