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Obama budget to do little on national debt

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By USA Today
Sunday, March 2, 2014, 8:51 p.m.

WASHINGTON — When President Obama introduces his budget request on Tuesday, it will mark a starting point for Obama and Republicans to begin framing the choice presented to voters before midterm elections.

Americans hoping for a renewal of broad talks to cut the nation's debt will be disappointed. And the conversation surrounding the budget release has taken on a partisan edge.

“I will send Congress a budget that will create new jobs in manufacturing and energy and innovation and infrastructure, and we'll pay for every dime of it by cutting unnecessary spending, closing wasteful tax loopholes,” Obama said in a speech to the Democratic National Committee on Friday. “Now, Republicans have a different view.”

The White House has said the president will step back from his attempt to persuade Republicans to accept a grand bargain to reduce the soaring national debt that would include entitlement changes, something liberals abhor, and raising tax revenues, something conservatives hate.

Instead, Obama's proposal will detail $28 billion in new domestic funding, including money for new manufacturing hubs, job training and early childhood education that would be offset by cost savings elsewhere. The Defense Department would get an additional $28 billion in its 2015 budget, but the administration is calling for the Pentagon to begin reducing the size of the Army by 10,000 soldiers by 2019.

The plan will take off the table what is known as “chained-CPI,” a proposal that would lead to less generous increases in Social Security benefits annually. The White House and its allies are using that decision to attempt to underscore that House Speaker John Boehner and his fellow Republicans have shown a lack of willingness to negotiate on reducing the deficit.

Polls suggest that stepping back from the deficit conversation is good politics. Only 8 percent of Americans identified budget or deficit issues as the top issue for the country, according to a Gallup Poll in February.

Republicans and some budget analysts say the White House is downplaying the independent Congressional Budget Office's calculation that the annual deficit is projected to balloon to more than $800 billion by 2022, as Medicare costs are projected to rise.

“They are more worried about their next election than the next generation,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a speech last week at the American Action Forum in Washington.

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