The budget will project a decline in the deficit to $901 billion in 2013 and continued improvements shrinking the deficit to $575 billion in 2018.
Republicans said Obama’s plan was a stark reminder that the Democratic president had failed to meet the pledge he made after taking office in 2009 to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term.
But Jacob Lew, Obama’s chief of staff, said the administration had to contend with a deep recession and soaring unemployment that had driven the deficits higher than anyone anticipated.
He said Obama’s plan would cut the deficit below 3 percent by 2018, to levels that economists generally view as sustainable.
He said faster deficit cuts now would set back an economy still struggling with high unemployment. Lew, Obama’s former budget chief, also said it was critical that Congress agree to extend a payroll tax cut due to expire at the end of February.
Failure to extend it, he said, would cause another hit to the economy.
“I think there is pretty broad agreement that the time for austerity is not today,” Lew said during a series of appearances on Sunday talk shows. “Right now we have an economy that’s taking root … austerity measures right now would take the economy in the wrong way.”
House Republicans are preparing their version of Obama’s budget that will propose sharper reductions in government entitlement programs such as Medicare while avoiding any tax increases.
“We’re taking responsibility for the drivers of our debt,” said the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “So when the dust settles and people see actually what we’re doing, how we’re promoting bipartisan solutions.”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Senate Democrats did not want to vote on Obama’s spending plan, so he would once again put it forward for a Senate vote where he predicted it would fail as it did last year.
Lew blamed House Republicans for pushing extreme measures rather than trying to reach consensus with Democrats and avoid the kinds of last-minute crises that roiled financial markets in 2011, such as the summer showdown over raising the government’s borrowing limit.