Obama on budget deal: ‘Not all these ideas are optimal’

President Obama speaks on the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative on April 2, 2013 in the East Room of the White...
President Obama speaks on the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative on April 2, 2013 in the East Room of the White...

UPDATE: 12:47 p.m.

As expected, President Obama sought cuts to Social Security benefits in his 2014 budget proposal to Congress on Wednesday, an idea Speaker John Boehner previously offered.

“My budget does also contain the compromise I offered Speaker Boehner at the end of last year, including reforms championed by Republican leaders in Congress,” Obama said in the White House’s Rose Garden. “And I don’t believe that all these ideas are optimal, but I’m willing to accept them as part of a compromise, if and only if they contain protections for the most vulnerable Americans.”

The president also said he would replace the “foolish, across-the-board” sequester spending cuts hurting the economy; make the country a “magnet for new jobs” by investing in new manufacturing hubs; work with states to make high-quality pre-school available to every child in America; and reform high schools and job-training programs to equip more citizens with the skills they need to compete in the economy.

After news leaked last week of his proposal, liberal groups criticized Obama for not keeping the promises he made when he first ran for president in 2008.

Senior administration officials earlier called President Obama’s 2014 budget a “sticking point” rather than a “starting point” in negotiations with Republicans toward a fiscal deal. “This is an offer where the president came more than half-way,” said an administration official during a conference call previewing the budget.

“The question is: are Republicans willing to come to us to do the serious things that they say are so important in terms of reducing our deficit?”

Boehner said on Wednesday morning that the president deserves some credit for the “incremental entitlement reforms” he revealed in his budget proposal. But the Speaker added that he hopes Obama will not “hold hostage” those reforms in his demand for higher taxes. The president’s budget seeks to reduce the federal deficit through higher taxes on the wealthy and trim benefits programs.

The 2014 budget includes $1.8 trillion in additional deficit reduction over 10 years through a combination of targeted cuts to wasteful spending, entitlement reforms, and new revenue. The budget also seeks to “turn off” the sequester and would include entitlement cuts that were part of the president’s original offer to Boehner last year.

In return for including “chained CPI” and cuts to Medicare as part of the plan to raise revenue, the administration is asking for the “Buffett Rule” to be implemented, which would require households with incomes over $1 million to pay 30% of their income in taxes.

The focus of the president’s budget proposal is job-creation through investments in education (with a focus on preparing students for careers in STEM-related fields), manufacturing clean energy, infrastructure (by providing $50 billion upfront on infrastructure investments), and small business. The budget also calls for funding for universal preschool, which would be paid for by an increase in the federal tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Liberal groups were not pleased with news of the entitlement cuts either. A coalition that included MoveOn.org, the National Organization for Women, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy for America, and National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, marched on the White House Tuesday demanding a halt to the proposed cuts.

Obama will introduce his administration’s full budget at 11:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Michele Richinick.

Obama on budget deal: 'Not all these ideas are optimal'