President Barack Obama on Wednesday briefed congressional Democrats of his plans heading into the fall, when debt ceiling and federal budget deadlines will collide with immigration reform, which has been waiting on the back burner, and an ongoing budget sequester that’s yet to be turned off.
It’s a simple plan: The debt ceiling increase is non-negotiable and the Pentagon will get no special treatment in fiscal deals, according to Defense News. Congress will be in recess all of August and returns Sept. 9 with only nine legislative days, which means lawmakers would have to begin these talks in earnest. The U.S. Treasury has also kicked in “extraordinary measures” to ensure the government pays its bills. However, the Congressional Budget Office projects that even with those measures, the Treasury will run out of funds around October or November.
“On sequestration ... he will not protect defense at the detriment of nondefense spending,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said of Obama’s meeting with Congressional Democrats. “He indicated that what the [House] Republicans always do is send us over bills -- military construction, [veterans affairs], defense -- and then they pass that and leave the rest of the American world without any help.”
The sequester that took effect in March has already cut the Defense Department’s budget by $34 billion and tens of billions more are expected to be taken out next year. The automatic spending cuts in the sequester require a $500 billion budget reduction from the Pentagon over a decade. That’s on top of the $487 billion required under the Budget Control Act of 2011.
In the meantime, Obama proposed a new grand bargain to Republicans this week: simplifying the business tax code in exchange for job-creating measures. But Republicans spurned the offer because the tax code reform it proposes does not include families and small businesses.
“Once again, the president is playing favorites,” House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wrote in an opinion piece for USA Today. “It isn’t the first time. He wants to give some businesses relief from Obamacare. But he refuses to give the same relief to families.”
“What the president is really offering is to replace government by the people with government by the experts,” he added. “So he might call his plan a grand bargain. But I call it a raw deal.”