U.S. President Joe Biden. (Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images).
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Thursday he’s ready to meet with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to hash out federal spending as soon as House Republicans release their budget, a challenging task without a firm deadline.
“I’m ready to meet with the speaker anytime, tomorrow if he has his budget,” Biden said during a rally in Philadelphia. “Lay it down. Tell me what you want to do. I’ll show you what I want to do. See what we can agree on, what we don’t agree on, we vote on.”
He also rebuked Republicans for trying to tie the debt ceiling to the budget negotiations, saying that risking a default should be out of the question.
“Every single major economic institution — conservative to liberal — says that will cause a massive recession and put us in the hole for a long, long time,” Biden said. “Instead of making threats about default, which would be catastrophic, let’s take that off the table.”
Biden’s comments came just hours after he released his budget request for the fiscal year that’s slated to start on Oct. 1.
The 184-page budget request calls on Congress to boost funding for defense and domestic programs and levy a 25% minimum tax on billionaires, setting up a significant contrast with House Republicans, who hope to cut spending to last year’s levels and overwhelmingly oppose tax increases.
Biden calls on U.S. lawmakers to increase defense spending to $885 billion and funding for non-defense accounts to $1.015 trillion. That would increase both categories from the $858 billion in defense spending and about $773 billion in non-defense funding Congress approved in December when it wrapped up last year’s process.
“My 2024 Budget is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America in a fiscally responsible way that leaves no one behind,” Biden said in a written statement accompanying the budget release.
The budget request, Biden wrote, would lower “costs for families — with new measures to expand health coverage, cap prescription drug costs, invest in quality child care, build affordable housing, reduce home energy bills, make college more affordable, and more.”
Biden’s budget requests lawmakers extend “the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by at least 25 years, and invest in service delivery so that seniors and people with disabilities can access the benefits they have earned.”
The tax section of the budget proposes Congress establish a 25% minimum tax on billionaires’ income, including appreciated assets, with Biden writing that “no billionaire should ever pay a lower tax rate than a school teacher or a firefighter.”
Biden also asks U.S. lawmakers to quadruple “the tax on corporate stock buybacks, so companies invest more in production to improve quality and lower prices, and less in buybacks that only benefit shareholders and CEOs.”
“This Budget closes tax loopholes for the wealthy and cracks down on tax cheats, and it once again ensures that no one earning less than $400,000 a year will pay a penny more in new taxes, period,” Biden wrote.
House Republican leadership — McCarthy, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York — called Biden’s budget request “unserious” and said the federal deficit is the result of “a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”
Republicans are planning to release a budget of their own at some point, though the Budget Committee hasn’t released a rough timeline of when that would happen.
Congress has a multistep government funding process where the budget resolution acts as a tax and spending blueprint, but doesn’t actually change any laws or spend money.
Actual spending, instead, takes place through the appropriations committees.
House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger, a Texas Republican, said Thursday the panel will review Biden’s budget request “line-by-line to identify programs that do not require additional investments and to insert our own priorities.”
“As we face growing threats at our border and around the globe, the President’s proposal spends far too much on unnecessary programs at the expense of our national security,” Granger said.
Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, and ranking member Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, said in a bipartisan joint statement they will move “forward with the work of writing our nation’s spending bills as quickly as possible.”
“We have a real opportunity — and an important responsibility — to work together to make our country safer, more competitive, and do some good for the people we all represent back home,” Murray and Collins said.
“The Senate Appropriations Committee will be busy and moving full steam ahead with subcommittee hearings on the President’s budget — providing an important opportunity to assess our country’s needs for the coming year and for every appropriator to weigh in on the President’s budget,” Murray and Collins added.
“Shortly thereafter, we hope to draft and mark up — with input from all senators — each of the 12 appropriations bills in a bipartisan, timely way in order to bring them to the Senate floor.”
Increases for agriculture, education
The White House budget request’s spending section calls on Congress to provide significant increases to several federal departments, including a 15% boost to the Treasury Department, a 14% increase to the Agriculture Department, a nearly 14% boost to the Education Department and an 11% increase to the Health and Human Services Department.
The National Science Foundation would get a nearly 19% increase in spending and the Environmental Protection Agency would see a 19% increase in its budget if Congress agrees to the request.
The Transportation Department would see a nearly 3% reduction in its budget while the Army Corps of Engineers would see its budget drop by 14%.
The budget request starts the fiscal 2024 spending process, which was supposed to begin the first Monday in February when the White House should have released the president’s budget.
The president’s budget is simply a request since Congress controls the ability to set tax policy and determines federal spending, but it shows the executive branch priorities.
The release of the president’s budget on Thursday will kick off a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill, where the House and Senate spending panels will soon hold hearings with the vast majority of Cabinet secretaries and agency heads on their budget requests.
The House and Senate appropriations committees will then each draft the dozen annual government spending bills sometime this summer before heading to conference later this year.
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