Biden’s $5.8 Trillion Budget Pivots Toward Economic and Security Concerns

Biden’s $5.8 Trillion Budget Pivots Toward Economic and Security Concerns

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Monday proposed a $5.8 trillion budget that includes significant increases in funding for the military and police departments, along with higher taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

The request to Congress for fiscal 2023 reflects growing security and economic concerns at home and overseas, with Mr. Biden proposing a 7 percent increase in domestic spending that includes priorities like anti-gun violence initiatives, affordable housing and manufacturing investments to address supply chain issues that have helped fuel rapid inflation. The White House also for the first time proposed a discrete stream of funding for Veterans Affairs medical care.

The most notable spending increase was Mr. Biden’s $773 billion military proposal, a 10 percent rise amid threats like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and concerns about China’s ambitions. The request included billions to detect and intercept missiles from hostile nations like North Korea and Iran, along with $6.9 billion to help NATO counter threats from Russia and elsewhere amid the war launched by President Vladimir V. Putin.

The White House budget proposal put far less emphasis on the types of grand social, climate and economic policies that Mr. Biden announced last year but have since run into resistance from moderate Democrats.

Instead, the budget continued the president’s pivot from his State of the Union address, where he reframed a domestic agenda that focused less on the sweeping aspirations of his first year in office and more on issues worrying swing-state Democrats ahead of the midterm elections — including rising consumer prices, crime and health care.

That shift is a nod to centrists in Congress, who have called on the White House to prioritize practical solutions to economic issues affecting the lives of voters as the party heads into what is expected to be a tough fight to keep control of the House and Senate.

“Budgets are statements of values, and the budget I am releasing today sends a clear message that we value fiscal responsibility, safety and security at home and around the world, and the investments needed to continue our equitable growth and build a better America,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.

Instead of calling for expansive new spending plans, the president focused on deficit reduction — a point of concern for moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. The budget aims to narrow the gap between what America spends and what it takes in by $1 trillion over a decade. Some of that winnowing would come from higher taxes on the rich and corporations, with about $1.5 trillion in new revenue directed toward reducing the budget deficit.

The budget also seeks to address rapid inflation, which has dented the president’s approval ratings as families face higher prices for gas, food and housing. The White House pointed to several proposals — including funds for port infrastructure development and money to help with financing the construction and rehabilitation of inexpensive housing stock — as measures that might help bring prices down by improving supply over time.

Reducing gun violence and violent crimes — which have surged since the pandemic and become a Republican line of attack — was a central focus of Mr. Biden’s budget. The White House proposed $30 billion for police departments and community-based anti-violence programs and set aside $367 million for the Justice Department to support police reform, prosecute hate crimes and protect voting rights.

“The answer is not to defund our police departments. It’s to fund our police and give them all the tools they need,” Mr. Biden said.

“They need psychologists in the department as much as they need extra rifles,” Mr. Biden said when asked supporting about crime prevention programs that do not involve the police. While some progressives have accused Mr. Biden of not prioritizing changes to policing, Mr. Biden has said investing in police departments is necessary both for public safety and improving accountability of officers.

More than $17 billion would go toward cracking down on gun trafficking and nearly $70 billion for the F.B.I. to drive down violent crime. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which Mr. Biden promised to overhaul during the campaign amid calls from progressives to abolish it, would receive more than $8 billion.

The proposal reflected the uncertainty of Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda amid a slim majority in Congress. The administration avoided offering price tags or revenue assessments for some of its domestic proposals such as expanding health care coverage, addressing the high cost of prescription drugs and directing spending toward climate change and child care.

Shalanda D. Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the omission was intentional “to leave a space for revenues specifically to allow congressional negotiators the room to do what President Biden has asked.”

Mr. Biden’s budget has little chance of becoming law in its current form. While many Democrats applauded the budget’s contours, Congress will ultimately hammer out the legislation needed to fund the government past Oct. 1, when the new fiscal year begins. That will require bipartisan support to clear the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate, but Republicans were quick to denounce the budget.

Progressive lawmakers also expressed concerns about the proposal. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent and the chairman of the Budget Committee, was among the most critical in the Democratic caucus of Mr. Biden’s plans to increase military spending.

“At a time when we are already spending more on the military than the next 11 countries combined, no, we do not need a massive increase in the defense budget,” he said in a statement.

One of the arguments Mr. Biden made last year for ending the 20-year war in Afghanistan was the enormous cost to Americans of financing it. But the situation in Ukraine has highlighted the global need to maintain security. During a trip to Europe last week, Mr. Biden vowed repeatedly that the United States would defend NATO partners if they were attacked.

His budget includes funds for modernizing nuclear weapons programs, including the development of a new class of ballistic missile submarines for the Navy. And it would establish independent legal offices to handle sexual assault prosecutions within each branch of the armed forces.

Both uniformed and civilian members of the Defense Department would get a 4.6 percent pay raise under the proposed budget.

The White House did address some of the issues outlined in the now-dormant social-safety and climate bill, including $45 billion spread across the federal government to address climate programs and “environmental justice.” But the president did not outline plans for student debt forgiveness, as many Democrats had been asking for. Instead, the budget would increase the Education Department’s student debt lending service by 43 percent, to $2.7 billion.

Mr. Biden instead focused on issues his aides believed could get support from Democrats and Republicans — including addressing the opioid epidemic and cancer, and requiring private insurers to cover mental health — in what was described as the “bipartisan unity agenda.”

Ben Ritz, the director of the Progressive Policy Institute’s Center for Funding America’s Future, said the White House’s choice to not explain the budgetary effect of some of its domestic policy proposals would leave “Democrats in Congress to fill in the blanks.” It is “unlikely most of these policies could be sufficiently vetted and refined” before the midterm elections, he said, when the party could lose control of Congress.

“Democrats cannot afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” Mr. Ritz said. “It’s long past time for lawmakers to figure out what sustainable, disinflationary fiscal policies can get majority support in both chambers.”

Budget watchdogs, who have spent years warning that the nation is on an unsustainable fiscal path, said they were glad to see Mr. Biden proposing to lower the deficit but found the proposal lacking.

“The goal is good, but the path is suspect,” Robert L. Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, said in a statement. “The budget assumes, for example, that G.D.P. growth will remain high, that inflation will quickly fade and that interest rates will stay low. This is an unlikely combination of factors.”

Much of the projected deficit reduction would come from $2.5 trillion in higher taxes on corporations and the rich, including a new minimum tax on billionaires. That proposal, which needs congressional approval, would require that American households worth more than $100 million pay a rate of at least 20 percent on their income as well as unrealized gains in the value of their liquid assets, such as stocks and bonds, which can accumulate value for years but are taxed only when they are sold.

The White House also proposed increasing the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6 percent from 37 percent and raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent. Both proposals seek to reverse some of the tax cuts that Republicans approved in 2017.

Republicans, who have targeted Mr. Biden’s economic prowess ahead of the midterms, assailed the budget as reckless, saying it would exacerbate inflation and deter investment.

“With 40-year-high inflation running rampant and inflicting increasing pain on the American people, this budget was an opportunity for President Biden to acknowledge reality and put the interests of hardworking Americans over his big-government agenda,” said Senator Bill Hagerty, Republican of Tennessee. “Consider the opportunity wasted.”

But Representative John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat who heads the House Budget Committee, supported the focus on the military, saying, “The international security situation has changed dramatically over the last month.” Opposing such spending would “represent a disconnect between the real world philosophy and the real world realities.”

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Last Update: Mon, 28 Mar 22 19:45:07