News / USA

US Budget Battle Reflects Sharp Divide Over Government's Role

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, talks with with the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 26, 2011 (file photo)
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, talks with with the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 26, 2011 (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio

In U.S. politics, there is no issue that divides Democrats and Republicans more than their vastly different views on the role and size of the central government. That political divide is at the heart of the intensifying debate over the federal budget.

Republicans made significant gains in last November’s midterm congressional elections, and many of them saw the election results as proof Americans want to sharply cut the size of the federal government.

That is why Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and others were quick to dismiss President Barack Obama’s $3.7-trillion budget proposal for 2012 that includes a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.

"The people who voted for a new direction in November have a five word response - 'We do not have the money,'" said McConnell.

Republicans are putting forward a budget blueprint of their own that calls for far deeper cuts in federal spending to reverse the course of soaring budget deficits.

This battle over how much to cut from the federal budget will dominate the Washington political scene for the foreseeable future and also sets the scene for the 2012 presidential election campaign.

The gap between the two parties over the budget seems huge, but President Obama says even in the wake of last year’s elections, most Americans want to see the two sides find common ground.   

"The key thing that I think the American people want to see is that all sides are serious about it, and all sides are willing to give a little bit, and that there is a genuine spirit of compromise as opposed to people being interested in scoring political points," said Obama.

Public-opinion polls indicate Mr. Obama’s political standing improved after he reached a bipartisan compromise with Republicans on extending tax cuts late last year.

Political strategist Mark McKinnon said that spirit of cooperation, which was largely lacking during Obama’s first two years in office, could continue this year. McKinnon is co-founder of a group called 'No Labels' that promotes bipartisan cooperation.

"Even though there are different points of view on it, I get the sense that Americans and the political class (politicians) are really committed to working together to find solutions in a way that they have not been in a long time," said McKinnon.

Some newly elected Republicans, however, are not in a mood to compromise on the budget. Many of them were elected with help from supporters of the so-called Tea Party movement, a grass-roots uprising of conservative and Libertarian activists who want to roll back the power and size of the federal government.

Newly-elected Congressman Bobby Schilling is a Republican from Illinois who owes a lot to Tea Party activists. Schilling told NBC’sMeet the Press  that many newly-elected Republicans will think twice about angering voters back in their home districts who expect deep cuts in federal spending.

"They are going to hold people accountable on either side," said Schilling. "And I was told, 'Hey, you know what, if you go against the things we sent you there for, we are going to work just as hard to get you out.'"

Political analyst Charlie Cook said Schilling and others elected with Tea Party help may find it hard to compromise on some of their core beliefs.

"They would be defying their base (supporters). They would be defying the people that elected them a majority. They really would be betraying their supporters," said Cook.

Veteran Republican political operative Scot Faulkner worked for former President Ronald Reagan and for Republican congressional leaders.

Faulkner sees a protracted political debate over the budget this year that will easily carry over into the 2012 presidential election campaign.

"I think we are already seeing some danger signs that Republicans see the next two years as a preamble to 2012 and they want to basically put (political) points on the board against Obama, as opposed to points on the board showing that Republicans can govern."

Experts say the budget debate could easily polarize advocates on both the political left and right, which could leave an opening for Obama.

Richard Wolffe, who has written two books about President Obama and is a political analyst for MSNBC television, said "But it also opens up an opportunity for the president to get back to where he was in 2008 as a candidate, which is to say, 'I am above the fray. There are all these children fighting, there are these extremists on the left and the right, and I am the reasonable guy in the middle.'"

The debate over the budget and the size of the federal government also is expected to be a major issue in the battle for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, which officially will begin early next year. Several potential Republican presidential contenders are expected to announce their plans within the next few months.

You May Like

Video British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Multimedia Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid