WASHINGTON— On Monday, President Obama unveils his blueprint for future U.S. government spending, a proposed 2016 federal budget. The weighty document constitutes an opening bid in a lengthy debate about America’s finances that will expose sharp divides between a Democratic president and a Republican-controlled Congress.
First, some good news: the federal deficit has fallen by more than 50 percent in recent years. America’s improved finances allow for a renewed focus on domestic needs that have gone unmet in recent years, according to President Obama.
“First, middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford childcare, college, health care, a home, retirement, and my budget will address each of these issues, lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year,” said Obama.
The president’s budget is expected to cancel automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that have impacted everything from U.S. military preparedness to the response to health crises like Ebola.
But the fiscal outlook is not all rosy. Any deficit, no matter how small, causes the accumulated $18 trillion national debt to rise further, a fact pointed out by Republican lawmakers, who say Obama’s budget is “dead on arrival.” Senator John Cornyn is among those troubled with the country’s rising debt.
“I am concerned that the budget will be loaded with more taxes, more spending, and more debt. And that certainly is not a sustainable path forward for the country. We are still spending money we do not have,” said Cornyn.
Congressional committees will craft spending proposals that reflect Republican priorities: constraining domestic spending while providing tax incentives to further spur economic activity.
But their professed concern about fiscal imbalances ignores recent history, when deficits and debt exploded under Republican rule, according to Independent Senator Bernie Sanders.
“I am delighted that some of my Republican friends have expressed great concern about our deficit and our national debt. I would ask them where they were several years ago when we went to war in Iraq and forgot to pay for that war,” said Sanders.
The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse: to pass laws on taxes and spending. But the president can sign or veto budget bills, meaning that an agreement between the two branches of government will have to be hammered out if the U.S. government is to remain open beyond September, when the current budget expires.