WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will send Congress today a $3 trillion-plus budget for 2012 that promises $1.1 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade by freezing many domestic programs for five years, trimming military spending and limiting tax deductions for the wealthy.
Jacob Lew, the president's budget director, said Sunday the new spending plan would disprove the notion that "we can do this painlessly. … We are going to make tough choices."
Republicans rejected that appraisal, castigating Obama for proposals that will boost spending in such areas as education, public works and research, and charging that Obama's cuts are not deep enough.
They vowed to push ahead with their own plans to trim $61 billion in spending from the seven months left in the current budget year and then squeeze Obama's 2012 budget plan for billions in additional savings in response, they say, to voters alarmed at an unprecedented flood of red ink.
"He's going to present a budget tomorrow that will continue to destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much and taxing too much," House Speaker John Boehner said on NBC's Meet the Press. Boehner released a statement from 150 economists calling on Obama to take immediate action to reduce government spending.
Lew, appearing on CNN's State of the Union, rejected criticism that the $1.1 trillion deficit-cutting goal fell far short of the $4 trillion in deficit cuts outlined by the president's own deficit commission in a plan unveiled in December. That proposal would attack the biggest causes of the deficits — spending on the benefit programs Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — and defense spending.
Obama's budget avoided the painful choices put forward by the commission on benefit programs. Lew said it would be a mistake to say the report did not have an impact on the president's proposals.
He cited a proposal to pay for keeping doctors' payments under Medicare from being cut sharply. Instead of borrowing the money to prevent those cuts, the administration was putting forward $62 billion in savings in other areas to prevent those cuts over the next two years, Lew said.