Feb 14, 2011, 09.53 AM IST
President Barack Obama's budget plan for 2012 would slash the US deficit by USD 1.1 trillion over 10 years, officials said on Sunday, but Republicans were unimpressed and vowed to push for deeper cuts in spending.
White House budget director Jack Lew said the proposal to be unveiled on Monday puts the government on track to halve the budget deficit by the end of Obama's first term in office, which extends through 2012.
"We are reducing programs that are important programs that we care about, and we're doing what every family does when it sits around its kitchen table: we're making the choices about what do we need for the future," Lew said on CNN.
Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, said Obama's proposed spending cuts would not do enough to rein in the growing federal deficit and promised their own plan would go further.
"He's going to present a budget tomorrow that will continue to destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much and taxing too much," House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The budget proposal by Obama, a Democrat, kicks off what is certain to be a contentious debate with Republicans, whose big gains in November's elections were fueled by conservative Tea Party activists who wanted to cut spending and reduce the size of government.
Republican House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan would not say whether Republicans would oppose Obama's plan until he saw the full text.
"We'll see the details of this budget tomorrow, but it looks like to me that it is going to be very small on spending discipline and a lot of new spending so-called investments," Ryan said on "Fox News Sunday."
"Borrowing and spending is not the way to prosperity. Today's deficits means tomorrow's tax increases, and that costs jobs," he said.
The deficit is forecast to reach USD 1.48 trillion this fiscal year, or 9.8% of US GDP. This would be down from 10% of GDP in 2010, but still very high for the United States on a historical basis.
The 2012 fiscal year begins on October 1.
The White House intends to get two-thirds of the USD 1.1 trillion in savings from spending cuts and one-third from tax revenues, including closing several tax loopholes, according to sources familiar with the budget.
That figure is higher than the USD 400 billion in savings that Obama promised in his State of the Union address in a five-year spending freeze on non-discretionary domestic spending.
"The challenge we have is to live within our means but also invest in the future," Lew said, adding "tough tradeoffs" would have to be made to achieve that goal.
"There are scores of programs that are being reduced, and I think it's important to note that we're beyond the easy, low-hanging fruit."
A Democratic aide said the budget would reduce Pentagon spending by USD 78 billion over five years. Pentagon cuts would include the C-17 aircraft, the alternate engine to the Joint Strike Fighter and the Marine Expeditionary Vehicle that the Defense Department says it does not need.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress have clashed over how far to go with spending cuts to trim the deficit. Obama argues some spending increases are necessary to make the US economy more competitive, while Republicans push for deeper cuts and oppose any tax hikes.
A key test of whether the parties can work together will be a deadline in April or May for Congress to approve allowing more federal debt or risk the United States falling into a debt default that could cause economic havoc globally.
The White House wants to keep the debate over a long-term fiscal plan separate from the bill to raise the USD 14.3 trillion debt ceiling, and separate from legislation to replace a stop-gap government funding measure for this year that expires on March 4.
Boehner refused to rule out the possibility of a government shutdown when that stopgap measure runs out. "Our goal is to reduce spending, it is not to shut down the government," he said.
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