President Barack Obama sent his budget proposal to Congress on Tuesday, but the document has been widely touted as his ideal, rather than a practical blueprint for Federal spending for the next fiscal year. Last year, a bipartisan, bicameral committee established a discretionary spending limit of $1.014 trillion for fiscal year 2015, and lawmakers of both parties have expressed the expectation that they will adhere to that. This is a $2 billion increase over fiscal year 2014, but the President would like to expand spending by $56 billion. To raise revenue for the government, President Obama has proposed eliminating a number of tax benefits, such as those on foreign investments. Additionally, citizens could expect tax and fee hikes. For instance, airline security fees levied on travellers would be increased, as would the Federal tobacco tax. The President also proposed offsetting the costs by reducing expenditures government officials incur in the course of their duties.
The President has proposed using the additional funds for a variety of initiatives. A number of the domestic initiatives are aimed at reducing poverty. For instance, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which benefits low-income workers, would undergo a large expansion. Additionally, $2.5 billion would be dedicated to making 600,000 jobs for underprivileged minors. Likewise, the President also indicated goals of ending homelessness among veterans in 2015 and more generally in 2016. Foreign aid would also see a boost. One-and-a-half billion dollars would be dedicated to aiding humanitarian work in Syria.
Although the President’s budget has been described as “wish list” and a campaign tool—as both Presidential and congressional budgets often are—there might be some areas where Republicans and Democrats could agree. Republican Representative Hal Rogers, the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, and Senator Barbara Mikulski, his Democratic counterpart in the Upper Chamber, have both said Congress and the President should abide by the spending caps of last year’s budget deal. Additionally, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp’s tax reform proposals had certain resonances with the President’s budget. For instance, both proposed dropping tax rates for businesses, albeit a different levels. Also, both would institute new taxes on certain banks, but again at different rates, and the President’s plan would target more institutions.
Not too long ago, we brought you a couple stories that the House Democrats were attempting discharge petitions on bills to reform the U.S. immigration system and raise the Federal minimum wage. A discharge petition is a motion to relieve a committee from its duties to consider a particular bill, allowing supporters to bring it to the Floor. According to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, they have not been able to persuade Republicans to join them to reach the required 218-signature threshold for the immigration reform petition, even though three are listed as co-sponsors of the bill. This is not surprising since when a majority Member signs such a petition, it generally taken as a public expression of discontent with leadership for not advancing legislation on the issue.
From now until November, one of the constant themes of political commentary will be on who will control the Senate in the next Congress. Although it is too early to say anything definitively, the Republican Party has a good chance at taking the Upper Chamber, a feat that has eluded them in the past two elections. In order to track the status of the races, turn to this handy chart on The Washington Post’s blog The Fix.
And for our latest post: Are Most Members of Congress Really Millionaires?