Mar 9, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Biden sets new trap with GOP budget taunt

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Biden got his FY2024 budget out of the way. Now he can turn to a more urgent task: Goading Republicans into offering their own proposals — and trying to define them before they do.

Why it matters: By calling for the rich to pay higher taxes to shore up Medicare, Biden is trying to force a fight on deficit spending and entitlement programs on his own populist terms.

  • The bigger battle is over the looming debt ceiling showdown.
  • Biden upped the ante Thursday by hinting that he won’t even meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy before he puts forward his own budget.
  • “I want to make it clear: I’m ready to meet with the speaker anytime — tomorrow, if he has his budget," Biden said in Philadelphia.

The other side: McCarthy responded that the House planned to release a budget, but that it would be delayed — offering an explanation but not a timeline.

  • "We were going to do the budget in April," McCarthy told reporters. "But unfortunately, the president is so late with his budget, it delays our budget."

Driving the news: In a campaign-style speech on budget day, Biden made it clear he was looking for confrontation — not negotiation.

  • He even raised the specter of Trump’s return, calling him “the former president, and maybe future president.”
  • "Bless me, Father," he added, making the sign of the cross and drawing laughter from the union crowd.

Between the lines: Biden’s $6.8 trillion spending blueprint, which relies on $1.8 trillion in deficit spending in its first year, had a little something for everyone in his own party.

  • It didn’t have many olive branches to the other side.

By the numbers: In the strategic press previews leading up to the budget’s release, officials emphasized Biden’s $3 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years.

  • Biden still plans to spend more than $10 trillion that he wants to raise in taxes over the next decade.
  • The defining features of his budget on the revenue side are higher taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans — for a total of $4.5 trillion over 10 years — including a new 25% tax on billionaires.
  • On the spending front, he proposed more for domestic discretionary spending — where progressives focus most of their energy — than he did for the Pentagon.

What we're watching: Amid all Biden’s bold talk on shoring up entitlement programs, there were more muted estimates on the economy.

  • Biden's team assumes GDP will grow only 0.4% this year, with the jobless rate rising to 4.3% and 4.6% in 2024. (It was 3.4% in January.)
  • Those jobless forecasts are rosier than projections from the Congressional Budget Office's version last month, Axios’ Neil Irwin notes.
  • CBO envisions unemployment jumping even higher, to 4.7% this year and 4.9% next, with inflation coming down more slowly.

Be smart: Friday's jobs numbers, with economists predicting some 205,000 new jobs were created in February, will give Biden another opportunity to talk about the economy and his plans to keep it growing.

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