President Obama will submit a high-spending “wish list” budget to Congress on Tuesday for fiscal 2017, and he is already wishing someone would take it seriously.
Freed of spending caps that had him chafing for years, Mr. Obama is proposing a roughly $4 trillion budget devoted to making up for the lost time under sequestration by boosting expenditures on his priorities such as clean energy research, which would double over three years to $12.8 billion.
To pay for that program, the president would charge a $10-per-barrel tax on oil, which could increase the cost of gasoline by 25 cents per gallon.
Republicans are rejecting the oil fee proposal outright, and even leading Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada haven’t endorsed the idea.
Mr. Obama also is proposing $6 billion for job training, including $4 billion over three years for computer science education. That plan, too, is receiving a frosty reception from Republicans. The president also wants to spend $5.5 billion on summer jobs, almost doubling funding for that program.
With Republican leaders pronouncing the president’s budget “dead on arrival,” even the White House’s timing of the budget release seems counterproductive for Mr. Obama’s goals. The administration is introducing the spending plan on the same day as the New Hampshire primary elections, when media attention will be far from Washington.
As the White House has leaked one spending proposal after another in recent weeks, the House and Senate budget committee chairmen last week took the rare step of declaring that they wouldn’t even bother to hold the traditional day-after hearing to allow White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan to defend the spending plan. House Budget Chairman Tom Price, Georgia Republican, said Mr. Obama’s previous budgets showed that he lacks “any real interest in actually solving our fiscal challenges.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday said congressional Republicans need to “wake up and recognize that they’re going to have to act in bipartisan fashion in order to get anything done.”
“We’re certainly going to lay out [a] coherent, prioritized budget that reflects the need to expand economic opportunity for everybody in the United States, as well is the need to keep the American people safe,” Mr. Earnest said. “We can do all of that in a fiscally responsible way.”
The notion of fiscal responsibility will be a hard sell in this budget. Deficits are projected to start rising again after hitting a “low” of $439 billion last year under Mr. Obama, and the total federal debt hit $19 trillion last month. The debt level was $10.6 trillion when Mr. Obama took office in 2009.
Jerry Hendrix, director of the defense strategies and assessments program at the Center for a New American Security, said the failure to address higher long-term spending “represents the gravest long-term threat to our national security.”
“The budget submitted does nothing to solve this issue, but rather exacerbates it with higher spending,” Mr. Hendrix said in a statement. “It is true that our nation needs a larger military, but innovative investments in high-end capabilities in balance with procurement of lower-end systems in mass could allow us to grow the force without increasing spending. The Congress should reject the president’s budget and invest itself in setting clear priorities for our nation’s national security, to include bringing its fiscal house into balance.”
The administration’s defense budget, at $583 billion, is in line with last year’s bipartisan budget agreement. It would quadruple spending on a current $790 million program in Europe to reassure NATO allies that are anxious about Russia’s military aggression. The budget also requests 50 percent more funding for fighting the Islamic State terrorist group.
Although opposition to the president’s budget is strong in Congress, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, will have difficulty adopting their own versions of the budget. Democrats won’t vote for a Republican proposal, and tea party Republicans are opposed to spending increases allowed under last year’s budget deal.
“There was a lot of bipartisan praise for the effort that Congress undertook last year to try to find some common ground on a range of budget issues that ensured that we would adequately invest in both our economic and national security priorities,” Mr. Earnest said. “It required both sides to compromise, and it required both sides sign onto legislation that was imperfect but yet critical in moving the country forward.
“Apparently, in just the last couple of months, we’ve seen Republicans in Congress abandon that approach.”