VA Lawmakers React to President's Budget

Mar 11, 2014

The president’s newly unveiled budget is rekindling a debate at the U-S Capitol over the role of the government in people’s lives.

Republicans in Congress fought tooth and nail in one of the last spending battles to get deep spending cuts to most every federal program, save the military. The president's budget flips that equation basically on its head. He's calling for shrinking the number of U-S combat troops while increasing funding for his domestic priorities, including everything from education to his signature healthcare law, which is being praised by Northern Virginia Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly.

“I think this is a forward looking budget I think it lays out a blueprint for strategic investments in education, research and development and infrastructure that are essential to the United States staying competitive a generation for now," said Connolly, adding that the Republican alternative would set the nation back."Actually constitutes a profound dis-investment in America. They would cut investments by $5 trillion over the next ten years. That is a surefire recipe to guaranteeing that the United States loses the competitive race to China."

Republicans see it differently. They continue to fight for deeper spending cuts. Virginia Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith says instead of really trying to tackle the nation’s more than $17- trillion debt the president’s budget is merely red meat for his liberal base.  "I think instead of trying to get something done it's just a political statement, And what he's doing is, his budget is a political statement rather than serious governing," he said.
The president did move away from an offer he made last year to change how social security payments are calculated, which would result in less money for seniors. Connolly says it makes sense because the GOP never gave a counter offer. "I don't believe you should give away a negotiating item for nothing. The president made a grand gesture last year in the hope that he could reengage Speaker Boehner in a grander bargain. And he did it at some expense to himself with his own party and his own base to his credit. The Republicans, led by Speaker Boehner, spurned that offer and disdained it, as they have every offer with this president."

The president is also asking for more money for the Environmental Protection Agency.  Griffith says from his perch representing the commonwealth’s coal fields in the south west, it seems as if the White House is too focused on increasing regulations that are squeezing the local economy.   “The EPA has some valuable things that it does. But maybe they need to be doing those things instead of writing new regulations instead of enforcing the old regulations and making sure that our water supply is fine.”

And Griffith says it isn’t as if he wants to disband the EPA as other Republicans have called for.  "This is one of those dilemmas. People think because we're against EPA regulations, we're against the EPA, you know, cleaning up air and water. That's just not true. But it would be nice instead of trying to put, you know, the people of southwest Virginia out of work, they would actually work themselves to make sure that they're living up to their primary commitment, which is to make sure that your basic drinking water is okay."  

Congress and the White House have already agreed to a budget blueprint for the next two years. But Virginia Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott says just like in Richmond, federal lawmakers can still change that document. "You don't need a budget this year, but even if you, in Virginia, in the Virginia legislature we have a two year budget, but in the mid-cycle, you always have adjustments. So this is an opportunity for adjustments and one of his adjustments is $50 billion in a jobs plan. We've had slow, steady job growth, but it's not enough. We need more."

Each year Congress receives the White House budget and then lawmakers lay out their own budget priorities. As far as Republicans who control the House are concerned this year's budget is dead on arrival.