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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Obama budget plan likely to be full of ‘bullet-point campaign stickers” -- Election year alters fiscal planning -- By Ben Wolfgang and Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times

The budget President Obama will release Tuesday bows more to political realities than it does to the government's fiscal picture, as the White House looks to do no harm to fellow Democrats in the run-up to November's elections.

The fiscal 2015 document will call for about $56 billion in spending on top of the more than $1 trillion level already set by Congress as part of a bipartisan budget deal in December, and will tick off a laundry list of Democratic agenda items.

"You can view it as a reflection on the president's priorities for spending, and that means in an election year it's likely to have a lot of bullet-point campaign stickers in it," said Lara Brown, director of the graduate school of political management at George Washington University.

"Let's face it: The overall budget deal was essentially done in December, so we know what the top-line number is. What this is about — the devil is in the details — this is about what's in the budget and the White House wanting to set up some contrasts," she said.

Mr. Obama is submitting his budget a month later than what is required by law, and the plan is unlikely to make much difference on Capitol Hill, where Senate Democrats have ruled out passing a budget.

House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio has said he and his fellow Republicans will try to pass a budget in his chamber, though that could prove to be difficult as the party tries to balance the politics of reducing the deficit versus the hard cuts to popular programs that would be necessary to get there.

"Splits? There are no splits in our party," Mr. Boehner joked with reporters last week, shaking off those worries.

It's been five years since Congress has passed a normal budget, and Mr. Obama's blueprints over the past few years have been shrugged off by Capitol Hill. Even last year's olive-branch opening to Republicans — a proposal to lower the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits — didn't gain traction, and Mr. Obama has erased it from this year's document.

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