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Congressional Republicans Balk at Obama’s Budget, Sight Unseen

The New York Times

Monday, February 8, 2016

President Obama sends Congress his eighth and last annual budget proposal on Tuesday, a lame-duck executive’s accounting of national priorities that Republican leaders have branded sight unseen: dead before arrival.

But some new ideas that the administration previewed in recent weeks, including on cancer research, opioid abuse and military projects, could have more life than Republicans care to admit. A $10-a-barrel oil tax for infrastructure and clean transportation projects is certain to be too much for conservatives, but administration officials said some initiatives would prevail in some form.

Congressional Republicans went to new lengths to extinguish any such expectations. Breaking with a 41-year-old tradition, the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees announced that they would not even give the president’s budget director, Shaun Donovan, the usual hearings in their panels this week.

G. William Hoagland, who was the Republican staff director at the Senate Budget Committee for much of the 1980s and 1990s, and is senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, said he could not recall a year since the modern budget process took effect in the 1970s when a president’s budget director was not invited to testify before the budget committees.

“While the last budget of an outgoing president is usually aspirational, and sets a theme for what he or she hopes will be followed up by his or her successor, it nonetheless should be reviewed by the Congress,” Mr. Hoagland said.

On Monday, 14 Democrats on the House Budget Committee signed a letter calling the snub “disrespectful to the committee members, the public and the president.” And like Mr. Hoagland, other Republicans criticized the decision, which injects partisan toxicity early in a year of election pressures.

KEYWORDS: 114TH CONGRESS, BILL HOAGLAND, PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA