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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Resolve Nuclear Deal Issues

Leaders find resolution on issues of liability of suppliers to India in event of nuclear accident, US demands to track whereabouts of material supplied to country More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid