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A Look At What's Inside Obama's Budget Proposal


After several years of fiscal dieting, President Obama says 2016 should be a time to splurge a little. Congressional Republicans were dismissive of the budget he released today, but left the door open to changes in the way U.S. businesses are taxed. NPR's Scott Horsley starts us off this hour with the details.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama's budget calls for nearly $4 trillion in spending in the upcoming fiscal year. But before we get to that, there's still a question of how the government's going to pay some of its bills this year. Congressional Republicans opted not to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the full year to protest the President's unilateral action on immigration. The Department's current funding runs out at the end of this month, setting up a game of chicken between Congress and the White House.

Obama decided to unveil his budget at Homeland Security headquarters where he urged lawmakers not to jeopardize the paychecks of more than a quarter million Department employees including border patrol agents and airport screeners.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The men and women of the America's Homeland Security apparatus do important work to protect us. And Republicans and Democrats in Congress should not be playing politics with that.

HORSLEY: When it comes to the 2016 budget, Republicans say it's the president who's playing politics. Obama wants to bust the automatic spending cap that Congress adopted two years ago with tens of billions of dollars in extra defense spending and domestic programs such as subsidized community college.


OBAMA: I want to work with Congress to replace mindless austerity with smart investments that strengthen America. And we can do so in a way that it is fiscally responsible.

HORSLEY: Many of the spending proposals in the budget were already telegraphed in last month's state of the union address, but one we're just now seeing details of is the president's plan to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on roads, bridges and other transportation projects over the next six years. Jeff Zients, who chairs the National Economic Council at the White House, says much of that money would come from a one-time tax on corporate profits that U.S. companies have stashed overseas.

JEFF ZIENTS: Infrastructure is traditionally a bipartisan issue. It's also a twofer in that it supports good paying middle class jobs right away, and at the same sign it sets us up for long-term competitiveness.

HORSLEY: Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, who chairs the House Tax Writing Committee, says he's open to working with the White House to reform the corporate tax code. But Ryan, who spoke this weekend on NBC, is much less receptive to other parts of the president's budget including a proposal to raise the capital gains tax and extend that tax to inherited wealth.


CONGRESSMAN PAUL RYAN: What I think the president is trying to do here is to, again, exploit envy economics. This top-down redistribution doesn't work. We've been doing it for six years. Look - it may make for good politics. It doesn't make for good economic growth.

HORSLEY: The White House acknowledged most its spending blueprint is likely to fail in the new Republican Congress. But it could help shape the debate for the 2016 presidential election. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.