The Budget Battle Continues

In what appears to be the largest display of bipartisanship since the incoming President made his debut on Capitol Hill, both sides of the House and Senate are having real problems with the 2010 Budget.

From the right side of the aisle:

Senate Republicans warned of deficits that could climb to $20 trillion in coming years and a weakened dollar if Obama and his Democratic allies get their proposed $3.6 trillion budget plan passed.

“The practical implications of this is bankruptcy for the United States,” said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. “There’s no other way around it. If we maintain the proposals which are in this budget over the 10-year period that this budget covers, this country will go bankrupt. People will not buy our debt; our dollar will become devalued.”

Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who sided with Obama on his $787 billion economic stimulus plan, said she couldn’t support the White House plan this time.

“It would double the public debt in 5 years, triple it in 10 years. … That is not sustainable. It poses a threat to the basic health of our economy,” Collins said.

Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, the top Republican on the banking committee, said Obama would have to scale back his budget, given a Congressional Budget Office report Friday that the president’s budget would produce $9.3 trillion in deficits over the next decade — more than four times the deficits of Republican George W. Bush’s presidency.

Shelby predicted that number could reach $20 trillion in coming years as Obama guides the country to “the fast road to financial destruction.”

The Right seems to all be in agreement on the matter.  The left, of course, is more divided.  Much more than one would think, given the popularity of President Obama.  On the lighter side of the left:

A White House adviser dismissed the negative assessments, saying she is “incredibly confident” that the president’s policies will “do the job” for the economy.

In a TV interview, Obama himself laughed when discussing the dire state of parts of the economy — and ascribed his laughter to “gallows humor.”

White House Council of Economic Advisers chairwoman Christina Romer insisted that the nation’s flailing economy will be rebounding by 2010.

Administration officials — and the president himself — have taken a cheerier tone despite economic indicators that are anything but positive.

“I have every expectation, as do private forecasters, that we will bottom out this year and actually be growing again by the end of the year,” Romer said.

The president, in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” talked about the need to spend taxpayer money to save financial firms and the auto industry.

“I just want to say that the only thing less popular than putting money into banks is putting money into the auto industry,” Obama said with a laugh.

Interviewer Steve Kroft asked how that laughter might be perceived, given the economy’s troubles.

“There’s got to be a little gallows humor to get you through the day,” Obama said. “If you had said to us a year ago that the least of my problems would be Iraq, which is still a pretty serious problem, I don’t think anybody would have believed it.”

The Republicans say Obama’s budget is no laughing matter, and more than a few Democrats are beginning to agree with them.

Both the House and Senate budget chairmen have been forced by worsening deficit estimates to scale back Obama’s requests for domestic programs, while deeply controversial revenues from his global warming initiative won’t be included either.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., announced a budget blueprint Tuesday that would scrap Obama’s signature tax cut after 2010 while employing some sleight of hand to cut the annual budget deficit to a sustainable level.

Conrad promises to reduce the deficit from a projected $1.7 trillion this year to a still-high $508 billion in 2014. Along the way, the Senate plan would have Obama’s “Making Work Pay” tax credit, delivering $400 tax cuts to most workers and $800 to couples, expire at the end of next year. Those tax cuts were included in Obama’s stimulus package.

In the House, Budget Chairman John Spratt Jr., D-S.C., said his companion blueprint would employ fast-track procedures to allow Obama’s overhaul of the U.S. health care system to pass Congress without the threat of a GOP filibuster in the Senate.

Democrats point out that Obama inherited an unprecedented fiscal mess caused by the recession and the taxpayer-financed bailout of Wall Street. Rather than retrenching, however, they still promise to award big budget increases to education and clean energy programs, while assuming Obama’s plans to overhaul the U.S. health care system advance.

It’s also becoming clear that Obama’s controversial global warming initiative has experienced a setback, as neither House nor Senate Democrats are directly incorporating into their budget plans Obama’s controversial “cap-and-trade” system for auctioning permits to emit greenhouse gases.

Obama’s budget has ignited a firestorm on Capitol Hill, with Republicans assailing it for record spending and budget deficits. Democrats are generally supportive, though some have sticker shock over the deficit figures.

Conrad’s plan was released in the wake of new Congressional Budget Office estimates that predicted Obama’s plan would produce alarming estimates of red ink — $9.3 trillion over 10 years and a deficit of $749 billion in 2014. Obama’s budget promises a $570 billion deficit in that year, and to get below that figure Conrad was forced to make a series of difficult choices.

Conrad said his budget makes room for Obama’s hopes to deliver health care to the uninsured. He said the plan would not add to the deficit over the long haul.

In grappling with the deficit, Conrad would cut Obama’s proposed increases for next year for domestic agencies funded by lawmakers to growth of about $27 billion, or 6 percent. Over five years, the savings from Obama’s budget would be $160 billion.

Neither budget includes Obama’s $250 billion set-aside for more bailouts of banks and other firms.

One can only imagine on a personal level how these seasoned Democratic and Republican lawmakers feel about having to totally rework a budget handed down to them by their former junior colleague.  One has to wonder if the experience factor isn’t rearing its ugly head with these more experienced leaders.

Obama is heading to the Hill today to try to sell his budget to Republicans and Democrats alike.  We have a front seat to watch – do we spiral downhill or do we put on the brakes of common sense?  Let’s see what our elected officials in Congress do for us now.