President Obama sent his final budget to Congress on Tuesday, and it was met with a mix of rigidity and rudeness that was remarkable even by the low standards of congressional Republicans.
The Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Budget Committees announced that they won’t bother to listen to what the president is proposing in his $4.1 trillion spending plan for fiscal year 2017.
Sen. Michael Enzi of Wyoming and Rep. Tom Price of Georgia announced before the budget’s arrival that their committees would not call the president’s budget director, Shaun Donovan, to testify. It will be the first time since 1975 that Congress has chosen not to hear testimony from an administration about its proposed budget.
Enzi said Obama’s budget was being dismissed without a hearing because it does not solve issues of the national debt and provide a long-term solution for sustaining entitlement programs. “Nothing in the president’s prior budgets – none of which have ever balanced – has shown that the Obama administration has any real interest in actually solving our fiscal challenges or saving critical programs like Medicare and Social Security from insolvency.”
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That’s a strange standard for deciding whether a one-year budget is worth consideration. Cutting the national debt and ensuring the sustainability of entitlement programs have been issues for decades. Certainly the Republican-controlled Congress has done nothing to solve those problems. Meanwhile, tax cuts proposed by most of the GOP’s presidential hopefuls would sharply increase the nation’s debt.
On leaving office, Obama will be happy to leave behind the budget process. Not only have congressional Republicans been disrespectful of his proposals, they’ve also continued to be delusional about the budget and the economy.
The president has offered a budget that history, if not Congress, will read as sensible and responsive to the nation’s needs. His proposal for a $10-per-barrel tax on oil would support desperately needed infrastructure investment and create jobs. He is also calling for more investment in cyber security and new initiatives to fight the plague of opioid addiction and support a concentrated fight against cancer. He also wants to close tax loopholes used by the wealthy and to tax profits that American corporations keep overseas.
As a spending plan, Obama’s final budget has much worth listening to. But congressional Republicans, as is their wont, are hearing nothing of it.