Biden’s budget set to lay groundwork for high stakes battles ahead

Biden’s budget set to lay groundwork for high stakes battles ahead

(CNN) The budget plan that President Joe Biden will unveil Thursday is designed to present a clear, if aspirational, policy vision for the coming year.

The proposal also lays out a strategic marker that White House officials plan to put at the center of the high-stakes politics and political battles expected over Washington.

“There’s a vision here and there’s a contrast,” Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in an interview with CNN. “You can be fiscally responsible and invest in the American people, or you can pull the rug out from the people by pursuing programs that people absolutely need.”

Biden, over the past several weeks, has repeatedly telegraphed how important he and his top advisers see his 2024 budget to creating an enabling environment for the fighting ahead.

Advisers point out that the budget, which closely matches Biden’s past policy proposals from his first two years, reflects his fiscal vision with significant investments in manufacturing, climate, education, paid leave and health care, all coupled with a menu of corporate tax increases. and the wealthiest Americans.

The proposal would also include capping the price of insulin at $35 a month for all Americans, according to administration officials.

But each of the main pillars of Biden’s proposal also serves as a carefully constructed contrast with Republicans ahead of near-term fiscal battles and an implicit roadmap for a re-election campaign policy platform if — or in the view of top advisers, when — – Biden decides to run.

The decision to unveil his budget in remarks on what will be his 20th visit in his presidential capacity to the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania is anything but subtle.

The nearly $3 trillion deficit reduction, fueled largely by the tax proposals, aims to undercut the GOP’s attacks on spending and the debt.

The Medicare and Social Security proposals will serve as a direct challenge to past Republican proposals to overhaul or cut benefits, drawing on Biden’s unwritten and open stances with GOP lawmakers in the middle of his speech. for the state of the Union. last month.

To be clear, Biden’s budget proposal as written is dead on arrival on Capitol Hill.

This is neither news nor a reflection of the months of work that Biden’s Office of Management and Budget and agencies across the federal government have put in behind the scenes to draft the hundreds of pages that make up the document, its analytical perspectives, tables historical, supplementary materials and appendices.

There’s a reason the old adage that “the president proposes, Congress disposes” is whispered all over Capitol Hill during Washington’s unofficial fool’s holiday that is Budget Day.

It’s a reality every White House faces, regardless of who controls both houses of Congress. It’s even more acute for Biden this fiscal year, as he faces a new era of divided government.

Republicans have long opposed Biden’s tax hikes and have made it clear that stance will hold with his new proposals. They have also promised major spending cuts to tackle the rising national debt.

“We can no longer ignore the biggest problem we have: the size of our debt,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters after a bipartisan briefing by the Congressional Budget Office on the US budget and economy. “We promised to change course.”

The reality of the new House Republican majority only serves to heighten the importance of Biden’s budget proposal at a critical moment for a White House that has methodically mapped out the months leading up to a summer debt ceiling deadline.

McCarthy pointedly pointed out that Biden has not reached out since their initial Oval Office meeting to discuss the next steps in securing a resolution on the debt limit.

“This is a wasted month,” McCarthy told reporters. “The sooner we come together, the better off America will be.”

Biden has been clear that there will be no negotiations or concessions to raise the debt limit, which Republicans helped triple under former President Donald Trump.

“Let’s be really clear about one thing: There is no real crisis here,” Biden said of the debt limit while speaking to House Democrats last week. “This is entirely a crisis of their own making, if it happens.”

Biden’s silence on McCarthy is no accident.

“Tell me your budget and I’ll tell you mine,” Biden replied when asked in January about the next steps in their talks on the issue. In a sense, it was a statement that framed Biden’s upcoming budget as bait.

White House officials are skeptical that Republicans can produce their proposal given the ideological divisions and chaotic nature revealed in their first months in office. Biden will spend the coming months repeatedly showing his budget and using it as the basis of his politics and policy.

At the same time, he will chide Republicans every day that they have nothing of their own to add to the debate — while citing past proposals that suggest cuts to programs like Medicare, Social Security and the Affordable Care Act.

House Republicans have dismissed that skepticism and vowed to produce a budget in the coming months. McCarthy said the delay in Biden’s budget contributed to a delay in the House Republican proposal.

But as Republicans work through what they have said would be deep spending cuts that would appear in any budget proposal, even as they have vowed to keep Medicare and Social Security changes off the table, White House officials are throwing bases to launch their attacks. .

They see political vulnerability among young Republicans coming from districts won by Biden in 2020 and political pressure mounting on more moderate members of the Republican conference.

Agencies across the federal government — at the request of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on Connecticut’s appropriations panel — has been asked to detail the impact of the big discretionary spending cuts on their budgets.

That information will be ready for deployment by congressional Democrats and the administration.

“It would be interesting to see what they want to cut and what their numbers are added to,” Biden said last week. “Will they cut Medicaid? Will they cut the Affordable Care Act? Will they cut Medicare or veterans benefits? Aid to rural communities?”

Whether these responses create political fissures that White House officials are targeting remains an open question. Biden’s position, however, remains to be determined.

“What we want to make clear is that you can make investments in the American people, in child care, in paid leave, in food assistance, in health care, all while reducing the deficit,” said Young, who runs Biden’s budget process. for the third year. The interview. “But you have to ask the rich in this country to pay their fair share.”

CNN’s MJ Lee contributed to this report.

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