Politics In The News
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.
President Obama sends a budget to Capitol Hill this week. After years of criticism from Republicans that he's never sent a detailed blueprint, the president's team says this one will be just that. And the details are raising the ire of many Democrats.
Joining us, as she does most Mondays, is Cokie Roberts. Good morning, Cokie.
COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: Well, so what do we know so far about this budget plan?
ROBERTS: Well, what the White House says is that he's putting on paper his last offer, when he, President Obama, was negotiating the so-called Grand Bargain with Speaker Boehner last year. Here's what White House spokesperson Dan Pfeiffer had to say about it on ABC.
(SOUNDBITE OF ABC BROADCAST)
DAN PFEIFFER: It shows, one, the president's serious about trying to find a balanced solution to our deficits and have a comprehensive economic plan. And it shows that we don't have to choose between deficits as far as the eye can see you and job creation and economic growth. You can do both.
ROBERTS: Now, job creation became especially important on Friday when the new jobs numbers came out and they were far, far worse than anybody had anticipated.
GREENE: OK. Well, dealing with those jobs numbers and creating more jobs at the same time as reducing the deficit, I mean, that doesn't exactly sound easy.
ROBERTS: Well, the president apparently has a plan for a big preschool program, which has been dear to his heart - and that would create some jobs - and a big infrastructure program, which would also create jobs. And those apparently would be paid for mainly by tobacco taxes. But it also cuts deficits by this complicated change in the way inflation is measured, David, for benefits and for taxes.
So Social Security and other federal benefits use one form of the Consumer Price Index to measure inflation. The IRS uses another form. If both went to yet another form of measuring inflation...
ROBERTS: ...the so-called chained-CPI - which tracks more accurately, apparently, actual buying habits - you end up with lower Social Security payments and higher revenues. And that's something that Republicans have pushed for in recent budgets. So this is seen as something of a concession to them.
GREENE: Chained-CPI: it's one of those jargony terms we're all going to be getting used to probably this week.
ROBERTS: Exactly, and trying to figure out.
GREENE: Yeah. Well, the idea of tinkering even in the smallest amount with Social Security is not something a lot of Democrats are probably going to cheer about.
ROBERTS: And already, you are hearing a lot of complaints from organizations that protect Social Security and other benefits. So you've got an attack from the left. And you also have an attack from the right, predictably. Speaker Boehner has already attacked this budget before it arrives, saying that it has too many taxes in it. And other Republican aides in the Senate are, off the record, saying the same sorts of things.
But the president is having another one of his dinners with Republican senators on Wednesday night, which is the night that his budget arrives on the scene. And I think that he's going to make a genuine effort to really get a negotiation going here, and get something done.
GREENE: One of the complaints about this president being that the he doesn't - hasn't really figured out the game of reaching out, always, to lawmakers, in the way many presidents have in the past.
ROBERTS: Right. And so, you know, then he started his, quote, so-called "charm offensive," and got criticized for that.
ROBERTS: But, look, the president has been using other issues - immigration, gun control, gay marriage - to shore up the coalition that elected him president. This is a move toward the middle, to getting those independent voters who he lost in the last election and the Democrats would like to get back by emphasizing deficits, which is something that they say they do care about.
And also, by - as you heard his spokesperson say - saying that he is getting serious about this because that Grand Bargain that he and speaker Boehner tried to do at one point, is still something the White House would like to see. And they'd like to see it more than ever now that that famous sequestration has gone into effect. The effects of that are beginning to be felt in various places around the country. And the White House wants to end that sequestration, and this budget would do that.
GREENE: All right. Cokie Roberts, always good to talk to you. Have a good week.
ROBERTS: You too, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.