President Barack Obama's $3.7 trillion budget plan for fiscal year 2012 brought howls Monday from both liberals opposed to spending cuts and conservatives unwilling to accept any tax increases.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said the president's budget plan cuts too deep on programs serving poor, low-income and working families -- for example, cutting $300 million from Community Development Block Grants and cutting some provisions of the Pell Grants for higher education.
"We're still looking at the budget, but these I know for a fact, for me, would be nonstarters," she said in a telephone interview, vowing to use her House Appropriations Committee seat to try to restore some such cuts.
Lee said cuts in programs serving vulnerable communities should be weighed against the tax break Congress and the president gave to the richest Americans in December, as well as against a bloated defense budget that's still not being rolled back in proportion to other cuts.
With House Republicans having started the budget process from the far right, she said, she's disappointed that the president seemed to start in the middle.
"You have to start in a progressive place, you have to start in a place from which you can negotiate," she said. "The only place you can go is into a deeper-cut strategy if you start in the middle."
Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, issued a statement agreeing the nation can find "more savings out of defense rather than cutting vital programs that working Americans depend on, like energy assistance for poor families and grants to localities to help bring communities out of poverty. But, I commend the president for trying to balance the opposing interests of reducing our deficit and continuing to meet people's needs."
The House Ways and Means Health subcommittee's ranking Democrat also said he's pleased the president "was able to pay for reforms to the Medicare Physician Payment formula for two years, without cutting benefits or raising premiums or cost sharing. We cannot reduce the deficit on the backs of senior citizens and people with disabilities, and I am glad that the president's budget recognizes that."
House Republicans, however, "have all the thoughtfulness and responsibility of a child smashing down building blocks," he said. "Their massive mindless cuts range from eliminating vouchers to help homeless veterans, to stopping the government from being able to process Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals."
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, also issued a statement blasting House Republicans for "this reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous" plan that threatens jobs, while praising the president for sticking to his State of the Union goal of out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world.
"I'm especially pleased to see the president renew his commitment to education, transit systems, and energy research," he said, but he's given pause by proposals for deep cuts in food assistance, job training, and home heating assistance. "If we're going to talk about 'shared sacrifice' as we mandate deep cuts in basic food and shelter needs, let's at least revisit the wasteful war in Afghanistan, tax giveaways for millionaires and billionaires, and subsidies to Fortune 500 oil companies."
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the House Education and the Workforce Committee's ranking Democrat, struck a more accepting tone with a statement saying the budget plan "makes tough choices, but it reflects a strong commitment to students, families, workers and the middle class" by investing in creation of a competitive workforce.
"His education priorities make it clear that the status quo is no longer an option if we're going to compete in a global economy," Miller said. "On K-12 education, the president makes strategic investments that pave the way for a comprehensive, bipartisan overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In addition, with millions of students relying on the Pell Grant scholarship in this economy, the president's budget rightly focuses on ensuring the reliability and stability of the program."
But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the president's budget proposal "will destroy jobs by spending too much, taxing too much, and borrowing too much. By continuing the spending binge and imposing massive tax hikes on families and small businesses, it will fuel more economic uncertainty and make it harder to create new jobs.
"The president's budget isn't winning the future, it's spending the future," he said.
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the Senate Finance Committee's ranking Republican, excoriated the president on the Senate floor for not cutting enough.
"The Administration is out there today touting its fiscal responsibility. Yet, its 10-year deficit reduction target is smaller than this year's deficit," Hatch said. "The president's much touted five-year freeze on discretionary spending, which will save $400 billion, is smaller than the Congressional Budget Office's recent upward revision of the 2011 deficit. Spinning this budget as the fiscally responsible thing to do betrays a profound lack of respect for the intelligence of American citizens."
But while she said she may not agree with everything in it, U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., issued a statement saying the budget plan "reflects the need to cut the deficit in a responsible way. It stands in sharp contrast to the Republicans' budget, which is so extreme that it would jeopardize our fragile economic recovery."
She said, "I commend the president for his investment in transportation, which will create and save millions of jobs and ensure that our country can compete in the 21st century. I've already begun reaching across the aisle to build support for a robust surface transportation bill that will accelerate our economic recovery and build the foundation for long-term prosperity."