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Obama on the Hill -- and on the Budget

After President Obama came to a Senate Democratic Caucus meeting to sell his 2010 budget proposal, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, spoke to mobs of reporters. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

By Shailagh Murray
President Obama pitched his budget blueprint to a supportive audience of Senate Democrats this afternoon, urging lawmakers to preserve his top health care, energy and education priorities, even as they cut deeply into other domestic initiatives to reduce the ballooning deficit.

"It was vintage Obama. He made us all feel content and inspired by where we need to go," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

"He reiterated what he said before, that he never had any expectation that the budget would just be rubber-stamped and adopted without change," noted Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), a member of a group of Democratic moderates who signed a letter to Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), asserting that revised deficit projections from the Congressional Budget Office "are simply not acceptable."

Bayh said Obama appeared to have gotten the message. "He knew this would be a collaborative process," the senator continued. "The tenor was very cooperative, it was non-confrontational, and he was very realistic." Bayh said Obama conceded, "These are tough financial times. It's going to be difficult to strike the right balance."

Conrad made a series of adjustments to Obama's proposals that would reduce borrowing by $600 billion over the next five years. When the chairman presented his version to Senate Democrats at a luncheon yesterday, he won early approval from some signatories.
"It's improving," said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

Participants said the Obama luncheon touched on few specifics, with Obama advocating the preservation of his main goals, and senators offering mostly laudatory comments, while posing few challenging questions. No one brought up the deficit or the controversial "reconciliation" process that some Democrats are urging Obama to pursue in the Senate, as a way of preventing a filibuster of major bills such as health-care reform.

Landrieu, another moderate signatory of the Conrad letter, did urge Obama to reconsider his proposed tax increases on the oil and gas industries, and the president responded that his initiatives are not free. Landrieu told reporters after the meeting the she understood Obama's position on the issue.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), another moderate, said of the mood in the room, "there was no tension whatsoever." He continued: "I don't think he's surrendered anything. What he's doing is he recognized the process. He put out his proposal, and now we put out our proposal, and we go to work on it.... Then we see how together we are."

Nelson said he preferred less domestic discretionary spending than even the reduced amount that Conrad has offered. "I don't think that's an ending point, from my standpoint," Nelson said. The House budget proposal includes $7 billion more in non-defense spending than the Senate version, whereas Obama is proposing $14 billion more than Conrad's bill, for the 2010 fiscal year. All three versions would allocate the same amount to defense-related spending.

Conrad also would jettison the $250 billion Obama included in his budget for the Treasury Department's ongoing bailout of the financial system. In addition, Conrad has pressed back into service some Bush-era budget maneuvers that Obama wants to eliminate. Instead of a 10-year budget that shows deficits steadily accumulating, for example, Conrad is proposing a five-year spending plan.

And Conrad assumes that the alternative minimum tax will strike millions of middle-class families, generating billions of additional dollars in 2013 and 2014, although Congress has acted repeatedly to prevent that. To meet his goals of reducing the deficit, Conrad has said he would leave out new spending for Obama's proposed expansion of health care coverage, a program likely to cost in excess of $1 trillion over the next 10 years, as well as the president's proposal to make permanent an $800 tax credit for working families.

Lawmakers would be free to adopt those policies as long as they did not increase the deficit, Conrad said. That means health care reform would have to be accompanied by tax increases or spending cuts equal to its entire cost, not just the $634 billion down payment Obama has proposed. And the president's middle-class tax credit, dubbed the Making Work Pay credit, would have to be scrapped unless it were paired with a money-raising initiative of equal value. The benefit was included in the stimulus bill that Obama signed in February, and under Conrad's plan would expire in two years unless Congress acts.

White House budget director Peter Orszag reacted favorably to the Senate blueprint today, saying it would "fulfill the president's objectives" on health care, education, clean energy and deficit reduction. He acknowledged that the Making Work Pay credit may be lost but said the administration has "two years to figure this out" before the temporary version of the credit -- established in the recent economic stimulus package -- expires.

By Web Politics Editor  |  March 25, 2009; 3:21 PM ET
Categories:  The Budget  
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Next: Obama Headlining Two Fundraisers Tonight


Let me just say that the majority of jobs lost are not all low paying positions. Where exactly is President Obama receiving his information. I am speaking on behalf of those who have lost their jobs and they are educated individuals...Should I start listing the people that I know that have lost their jobs who are college educated??? A civil engineer who graduated from Purdue College,an L.C.S.W. who graduated with a master's from San Diego State, a Marketing Manager who graduated with a MBA from San Diego State,etc...Shall I go on because I could...Are the Washington insiders that out of touch with the American people?????

Posted by: Rhonda5 | March 26, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse


No, you didn't blow my cover. I am also NOT Jake DeSantis ; )

Posted by: JakeD | March 25, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

I am concerned that in just two months in office, President Obama has surrounded himself with political and financial amateurs and is making decisions that will affect all of us in the future.
Perhaps more time should have been spent researching these problems before such momentous decisions were made.
Recognizing that Obama was saddled with many problems left by the Bush regime, more time and perhaps more highly qualified
advisors would have been more helpful.

Posted by: ronrod17509 | March 25, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

JakeD, I hope we haven't blown your cover...

No, I think the "op" did that for you.

Now put on a white hat and feel better about yourself...

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 25, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

You guys have been fun. I will probably go back to golfing and sailing more now. Have a great life!

Posted by: JakeD | March 25, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse


TO: President Obama, White House staff (c/o Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod)

Mr. President:

First things first. You must restore civil and human rights in America before your goals can be accomplished. You must immediately join with GOP defenders of the Constitution to dismantle the nationwide extrajudicial punishment network...

...authoritarian bureaucrats and security/intel officers and their nationwide network of citizen vigilantes fronted by federally-funded volunteer programs.

This nationwide, Gestapo-like operation has made a mockery of the judicial system for the past eight years and has claimed many unjustly "targeted" victims from all strata of society.

Crimes against humanity are being committed across the nation via the use of so-called "directed energy (microwave radiation) weapons" which the Bush D.O.J. recently confirmed are being widely deployed to police forces nationwide.

These RADIATION weapons emit silent, pulsed bursts of various forms of radiation -- degrading and damaging the health of those on the receiving end as well as their operators.

This weaponry has NO PLACE in civilized society -- much less in the hands of security personnel who interact with the public, or with the nation's leaders.

The widespread deployment of this weaponry virtually assures its misuse.

Imagine if rogue actors tried to use its silent, deadly force to induce illness or to disorient, prematurely age, sicken or disable our political leaders.

Perhaps they already have.

Victims of this extrajudicial punishment network also see their finances and livelihoods expropriated and destroyed by coordinated "multi-agency action" "programs of personal destruction" that deny them due process of law while degrading their lives and destroying their families.

The IRS, under Bush-Cheney, has been transmogrified into an ideological weapon of social control and recrimination by these covert "multi-agency actions."

Obama administration officials must address these abuses IMMEDIATELY, before these affronts to the Constitution destroy more American families -- and subvert the Obama presidency.





OR (if links are corrupted):

Posted by: scrivener50 | March 25, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

i think this sets the right tone. The good shouldn't be the enemy of the perfect. The important thing is that we're making the investments in energy in particular (engine for future growth), healthcare (unsaddling small businesses to expand) and education (we will not be a 3rd world country by 2030). Of course, i'd prefer a place holder for healthcare and everything else goes to pay-as-you-go. But so long as we have a workable plan, if we can reduce the deficit, then by all means. that's obama's attitude. he's not beholden to programs, but to goals. so long as you get him there, he doesn't care how pretty the process was. that's why all the folks talking about how he's gonna fight the moderates in his party as bit entertained. there will be difference that will be publicly debated. but in the end, all democrats understand that an economic model where 'maxing-out' of credit cards is the wealth generator is unsustainable.

Posted by: lupercal | March 25, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

With the GOP pouting on the sidelines, the real fight for Obama on the budget (and most everything else) will be with moderates in his own party.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | March 25, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

sounds like all the skeptics kept their mouth shut at this "luncheon" because they know they can vote against later.

Posted by: TheBabeNemo | March 25, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Need I say more?

Posted by: JakeD | March 25, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

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