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President Barack Obama comments to reporters on the situation in Ukraine before meeting with Israel President Barack Obama comments to reporters on the situation in Ukraine before meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington March 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)  

Obama’s budget pitch trumped by Putin’s Crimean grab

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

The rollout of President Obama’s budget request for 2015 is being trampled by foreign policy, to the point that he talked more about Ukraine than about his budget during the Tuesday morning introduction of his budget.

The event was supposed to highlight the poll-tested portions of his budget plan, which he acknowledged is a political pitch rather than an actual budget request for subsequent deliberation and amendment by both Houses of Congress.

The budget request is “about choices, it is about our values,” he said. ”I’m going to fight for it this year, and the years to come,” he added.

But the Russian intervention in the Ukraine, and its takeover of the Crimean region, has embarrassed Obama and threatens to further damage his weak poll ratings among swing-voting independents. So he spent several minutes answering an one pre-planned question about the Ukraine.

Obama spent 950 words touting his budget, but 1,100 words on Russia.

In his extensive answer, he suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin is backing down amid Obama’s efforts to rally international protest against the Crimean takeover.

Obama is sending his budget to Congress 29 days after the statutory deadline. The deadline is the first Monday of February, according to the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921.

The Democratic chairwoman of the Senate’s budget committee, Sen. Patty Murray, said she does not plan to develop a budget this year, but will rely on the budget deal developed for this year in December by her and Rep. Paul Ryan.

The $4 trillion budget contains many conventional requests, but also asks for an extra $56 billion above the Murray-Ryan budget plan.

In his brief speech for network TV cameras at 11:30 a.m., he urged tax increases on “the well-off and well-connected,” more spending on pre-school programs, more spending to combat wildfires and a “changing climate,” and more spending on the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The budget will put the “fiscal house in order” over the long-term, he claimed, partly by promoting increased immigration via a new immigration reform bill. That pitch about immigration reform is intended to spur Latino turnout in November.

The budget will boost opportunities for “every American,” he said echoing his 2014 campaign pitch of greater opportunity for 300 million Americans who are stuck in a lousy economy for more than five years.

GOP leaders panned the request.

“The President’s budget is yet another disappointment—because it reinforces the status quo,” said a statement from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. “It would demand that families pay more so Washington can spend more … hollow out our defense capabilities … [and] do nothing to preserve or strengthen our entitlements.”

“This budget isn’t a serious document; it’s a campaign brochure,” Ryan added.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, joined with Ryan to offer a broader criticism of Obama’s budget.

“The share of Americans over 16 who are working is at its lowest level since 1978. Real wages are lower today than in 1999. One in five U.S. households is on food stamps,” said joint statement from Sessions and Ryan.

“But what do the President and his party propose? A health law that will remove the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time workers from the workforce; an energy policy that drives up costs and destroys jobs; a regulatory policy that sends U.S. jobs and wealth overseas; a tax policy that closes plants and factories; a welfare policy that discourages work; and a spending policy that crushes economic growth and threatens the future of America’s youth,” Sessions and Ryan  said.

“Republicans believe in a different vision: one that shrinks the welfare rolls by growing the employment rolls. One that transitions struggling Americans from dependency and joblessness to work and rising wages. Republicans believe in making choices that not only help families today, but guarantee a safe future for their children tomorrow.”

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