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Obama Budget Gets Partisan Response on Capitol Hill

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the FY2016 budget at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, Feb. 2, 2015.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the FY2016 budget at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, Feb. 2, 2015.

President Obama’s proposed $4 trillion federal budget drew predictable praise from Democrats and equally predictable scorn from Republicans on Capitol Hill. The fiscal blueprint would boost taxes on top earners and some corporations, while canceling automatic spending cuts, investing in infrastructure, and helping America’s struggling middle class.

At best, presidential budgets are greeted by lawmakers as a serious point of departure for months of congressional deliberations on spending and taxation. In recent years, budgets submitted by the White House have generated a week’s worth of hyperbolic commentary on Capitol Hill -- before being cast aside and forgotten almost entirely.

It is that latter fate that appears to be unfolding for President Obama’s 2016 federal budget in the new Republican-led Congress.

In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner blasted the fiscal blueprint as “more taxes, more spending” and containing “no plan” to foster growth and create jobs.

Similarly, the Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, described the budget as “another tired, tax-and-spend manifesto.”

“If focuses on growing the bureaucracy instead of opportunity. It does not balance - ever. And because it is not designed to pass Congress, of course it doesn’t,” he said.

By contrast, the House’s top Democrat, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, described the president’s proposal as “forward-looking,” “fiscally responsible” and contributing to America’s “long-term economic growth.”

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal agrees.

“I am particularly gratified the president has strongly supported our national defense as well as domestic needs, and investing in our roads, bridges and other infrastructure that is so very, very important to our future,” he said.

Republicans control both houses of Congress and have pledged to pass a budget that reflects their priorities: constraining domestic spending while boosting entrepreneurial activity. Finding common ground with the White House on budget specifics will be a challenge in the months to come. The current budget expires at the end of September.

On a day of heightened partisanship in Congress, at least one lawmaker stood apart. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, a frequent critic of the president, had this to say when approached by reporters: “I really owe the president the courtesy of reading his budget before commenting on it.”