Obama, GOP prepare to tackle budgets
February 2nd, 2013
06:00 AM ET
2 years ago

Obama, GOP prepare to tackle budgets

(CNN) – It's time to "get serious."

Well, at least they can agree on that.

President Barack Obama and Republican Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana talked spending and saving in their weekly addresses on Saturday, marking a return to the fiscal feuding which nearly brought Capitol Hill to a standstill in late December.

There were other arguments to be had in recent days, such as Obama's nominees for Cabinet posts and proposals aimed at reducing gun violence. Legislators also peddled their plans and ideas for immigration reform - a topic where analysts see potential for progress.

But lawmakers also made steps on fiscal matters. The Senate on Thursday approved a short-term suspension of the federal debt limit, which will allow the government to spend through May 19. The House approved the measure just over a week ago.

The legislation sets an incentive for lawmakers of both houses to pass a budget. If they can't, their pay will be temporarily withheld – then paid, including back pay, once each house passes a budget.

It doesn't, however, require the two houses to come together, reconcile their budget differences, and agree on one proposal that can be signed by Obama. It only requires that the House and the Senate each act.

Brooks said in her address budget stalemate resides in the upper chamber, where Democrats have the upper hand. She said it is time to "get serious."

"Unfortunately, it's been nearly four years since Senate Democrats last passed a budget – 1,375 days to be exact," she said. "In that time, I've seen one child through high school and into college while another graduated from college and entered the professional workforce. Like most parents, I'm worried that our nation's children will pay – in both actual dollars and opportunities – for our failure to lead."

The most recent budgets proposed by both parties have been seen as political documents, and that 2012 was an election year didn't help the debate last spring.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan - who eventually joined the presidential ticket alongside GOP nominee Mitt Romney - put forward a plan with tax breaks and entitlement reforms which went too far for Democrats' liking. Obama, meanwhile, laid out a plan with tax increases and infrastructure spending that were non-starters for Republicans.

Obama eventually got some tax increases as part of the fiscal cliff deal, and in his weekly address, he again advocated for what he describes as a "balanced approach" - one which includes cuts and spending.

"We all agree that it's critical to cut unnecessary spending. But we can't just cut our way to prosperity," he said, arguing spending cuts would "weaken our economy" and employment picture.

"What we need instead is a balanced approach; an approach that says let's cut what we can't afford but let's make the investments we can't afford to live without," Obama said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that Obama "has been very serious about spending cuts" and would continue to address tax loopholes.

He noted the latest gross domestic product figures released Wednesday that showed the economy shrank slightly in the last quarter of 2012. But it was the first such contraction since 2009, when the U.S. economy was in recession.

Economists noted that contraction came as the government cut spending and Washington raced toward the fiscal cliff. Obama noted it as a reminder "that bad decisions in Washington can get in the way of our economic progress."

Both Obama and Brooks expressed hope that a budget deal can be reached.

"These are big challenges, but with some much-needed determination and a healthy dose of optimism, we will meet them," Brooks said. "We have a chance to begin balancing our nation's checkbook, jumpstart our economy and restore faith in our government. Republicans will work tirelessly to hold the Democratic majority in Washington accountable and make sure, together, we seize this opportunity."

Obama noted that the first year of his second term could "be a year of solid growth, more jobs, and higher wages.

"But that will only happen if we put a stop to self-inflicted wounds in Washington. Everyone in Washington needs to focus not on politics but on what's right for the country; on what's right for you and your families," he said.

In the meantime, Brooks had her eye on what most Americans will be watching this weekend.

"As the daughter of a former high school football coach, I'd like to wish everyone a happy Super Bowl weekend," she said.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (One Response)
  1. lottie

    congress needs to listen to the economist on the budget. Ryan is really useless. The president is on the right track . We need cuts but economy is still fragile so we must not put our selves into a recession. Ryan's budget is crazy even with all his charts. Most economist find it flawed to say the least.

    February 2, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |