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Obama Budget Aim: Roll Back Sequester Spending Cuts (Updated)

Republicans applauded Obama 31 times during the 2015 State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Republicans applauded Obama 31 times during the 2015 State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 12:48 p.m. | President Barack Obama’s budget will increase spending on domestic and defense programs by $74 billion, he plans to tell House Democrats Thursday at their retreat in Philadelphia.  

According to a White House official, Obama will once again propose to “end the across-the-board sequester cuts that threaten our economy and our military.”  

That’s translates to about $74 billion increase in discretionary spending over the level allowed under sequestration caps in fiscal 2016 — or about 7 percent, according to second White House official.  

Non-defense discretionary spending would increase to $530 billion, or $37 billion over the spending caps, and $561 billion for defense spending, an increase of $38 billion, per the second official.  

“The President’s budget will fully reverse those cuts for domestic priorities, and match those investments dollar-for-dollar with the resources our troops need to keep America safe,” the first official said in an emailed statement.  

“The President believes we should end the era of manufactured crises and mindless austerity and instead build on the bipartisan budget agreement signed in late 2013 that helped us end some of these arbitrary budget cuts to help boost our economic growth, invest in key national priorities while helping to cut our deficits to their lowest level since 2007.  

“And with House Republicans declaring this week that a funding lapse for the Department of Homeland Security is ‘not the end of the world,’ the President will join the Democrats in Congress in vehemently opposing that dangerous view and calling for a clean funding bill to ensure we are funding our national security priorities in the face of cybersecurity and security threats abroad.”  

The official said Obama’s plan to end the sequester and restore higher spending caps would be fully paid for with cuts elsewhere and “closing tax loopholes to make sure everyone pays their fair share.”  

Of course, that’s exactly what the president has been proposing in his previous budgets — with little to show for it from Congress, given Republican opposition to anything that would lead to a net tax increase and Obama’s refusal to entertain significant spending cuts without Republicans paying a tax hike ransom.  

Increasing spending even a small amount, let alone completely replacing the sequester, will be a tall order. Many of the Republican majority-makers have vowed to cut spending or at least hold the line, not increase it.  

Cory Fritz, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, noted the speaker has long preferred alternative spending cuts.  

“Republicans believe there are smarter ways to cut spending than the sequester and have passed legislation to replace it multiple times, only to see the president continue to demand tax hikes,” Fritz said in an email. “Until he gets serious about solving our long-term spending problem it’s hard to take him seriously.”  

But Democrats are already applauding the announcement in advance.  

“Arbitrary cuts through sequestration never made sense, and House Democrats have consistently supported replacing them with a smarter, more balanced approach to long-term deficit reduction,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the ranking member of the Budget Committee.  

The budget will be released Monday.  


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