WASHINGTON — Striving for unity among Democrats rather than compromise with Republicans, President Barack Obama will unveil an election-year budget today that drops earlier proposals to cut future Social Security benefits and seeks new money for infrastructure, education and job training.
But Obama's almost $4 trillion budget plan is likely to have a short shelf life. It comes just three months after Congress and the White House agreed to a two-year, bipartisan budget pact that has already set the parameters for this election year's budget work. Democrats controlling the Senate have already announced they won't advance a budget this year and will instead skip ahead to the annual appropriations bills for 2015, relying on new spending "caps" set by December's budget deal that provide $56 billion less than what Obama wants in 2015.
Obama would divide the extra money equally between the Pentagon and domestic initiatives like boosting manufacturing hubs, job training and preschool programs and cutting energy waste. Republicans are likely to balk at the idea, which would be paid for by curbing special interest tax breaks and making spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Obama has also announced a four-year, $302 billion plan to boost spending on highways, rail projects and mass transit. Half of the initiative would be financed through corporate taxes. Funding for highway and mass transit projects expires at the end of September, and there's bipartisan interest in finding a supplemental funding stream to augment stagnant revenues from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax.
Obama's budget arrives after a tumultuous year that began with Obama muscling through a 10-year, $600 billion-plus tax increase on upper-bracket earners. Feeling stung, Republicans refused to yield on about $80 billion in automatic spending cuts that began in March. Then, conservatives in the GOP forced a 16-day partial government shutdown over funding to implement the nation's new health insurance program. The small-bore, two-year budget deal struck by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., emerged from the wreckage to alleviate the toughest automatic cuts.
With no design or expectation of luring Republicans into more budget negotiations in this election year, Obama's blueprint presents his vision for boosting job growth and favored initiatives like education. The White House announced earlier Obama was dropping a plan opposed by most Democrats in his budget proposal a year ago to slow Social Security cost of living increases.
The budget also will flesh out a plan Obama announced in his State of the Union address to expand the earned income tax credit for childless workers, helping more than 13 million. It would also boost the tax credit for child care and help people sign up for individual retirement accounts.
Republicans are sure to brush aside most of Obama's new initiatives. Ryan released a report Monday criticizing many federal anti-poverty programs, saying they should be redesigned to better help the poor escape poverty.