News Column

Budget Leads Agenda This Week

March 12, 2013

President Obama and a divided Congress kick off a week of jockeying over the federal budget as House Republicans and Senate Democrats unveil competing fiscal blueprints and the president heads to Capitol Hill to continue his personal campaign for compromise.

The president spent part of Monday prepping for three trips to Capitol Hill over the next three days for closed-door meetings with House and Senate lawmakers in both parties. Obama is seeking an alternative to sequestration, the $1.2 trillion, across-the-board, 10-year spending cut that kicked in March 1.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president will also urge Congress to use the budget process to reduce the deficit. "Our focus now ... is on working with Congress in regular order on the budget process, and through that process, hopefully produce a bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction," Carney said.

The challenge of finding compromise between the two parties will be underscored as House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., unveil their party's budgets today and Wednesday, respectively.

Ryan, a potential 2016 presidential contender, has said the GOP budget will achieve balance in 10 years without raising taxes. It is also expected to include his proposal to change Medicare from a guaranteed benefit to a system in which seniors receive federal subsidies to buy health care on the private market.

Democrats are again maneuvering to use the GOP Medicare overhaul as a political cudgel in 2014. The Senate Democratic campaign operation said Monday that Democrats would use the Ryan budget to target Senate candidates, highlighting 14 House Republicans who are either declared Senate candidates or mulling a run.

Republicans are likewise plotting to use the Senate Democrats' budget as political fodder in 2014. Their blueprint is expected to outline proposals to raise more revenue by closing tax loopholes.

"Democrats up for election in 2014 will be forced to defend a budget that features massive tax hikes, reckless spending and more debt," said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the Senate GOP's campaign outfit.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., who sits on the budget panel, said she is still confident that a long-term bipartisan agreement can be reached.

"It's going to take a little while but there are a lot of pressures that could lead us in that direction," Baldwin said in an interview Monday with USA TODAY's Capital Download.

"As this plays out in the months ahead, we have a real opportunity to at least stop living from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis, which is something that has been very frustrating to the American people," she said.

Contributing: Susan Page

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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