Following a meeting with President Barack Obama Wednesday, leading Senate Democrats said their budget proposal still allows the president's reform initiatives to move forward, despite cuts from Obama's initial proposal.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said the adjustments he'd made to Obama's ambitious proposals were necessary in light of gloomier economic forecasts that had recently come from the Congressional Budget Office.
Conrad spoke to reporters with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., after the Senate Democratic Caucus met with Obama at the Capitol. As Obama left the meeting he called out that the meeting went great but did not stop to answer questions.
We have attempted to preserve, and I think have preserved, the president's key priorities, Conrad said. That's what he asked me to do when we got the reforecast.
He added, Reducing our dependence on foreign energy, excellence in education, health care reform; all of those are possible in the budget resolution I have written.
Conrad said that the key changes he made to the proposal was to eliminate funds that Obama had set aside for health care reform and to establish a cap and trade system for regulating carbon emissions. His budget proposal also proposes substantial reductions to the budget deficit over the next five years, another key Obama priority.
Instead the budget proposal sets aside deficit neutral reserve funds, which Conrad said would allow Congressional committees to move forward with the proposals, so long as they are paid for.
What I did was to leave open to the committees of jurisdiction the maximum flexibility to make the judgments, he said. So they can work on climate change legislation, if it's paid for.
He added, That was always their intent and that's what the president proposed.
Conrad added that he had also removed from the five-year projection elements of Obama's tax cut proposal, known as Making Work Pay, which reduced tax rates and added refundable tax credits for 95 percent of Americans.
The president's Making Work Pay tax cuts are already provided for the next two years, Conrad said. What we say in my budget mark is that if they were to be extended, they need to be offset with other tax increases or spending cuts.
Conrad said the adjustments were necessary to come up with a proposal that could garner the votes necessary to overcome potential procedural objections.
We have done our level best to make the investments necessary to have a budget resolution that can be supported in the united states Senate, he said.
Reid agreed with Conrad that the budget proposal protected Obama's priorities in education, energy, health care, middle class tax relief and cutting the budget deficit.
He said he expected the proposal to win the support of the full senate.
I look forward to votes in committee . [and] the Senate which we should have next week, he said.
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