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Obama Budget Strategy Irks Democrats

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo

“While this is not the president’s ideal deficit reduction plan, and there are particular proposals in this plan ... that were key Republican requests and not the president’s preferred approach, this is a compromise proposal built on common ground and the president felt it was important to make it clear that the offer still stands,” the official said. “The president has made clear that he is willing to compromise and do tough things to reduce the deficit, but only in the context of a package like this one that has balance and includes revenues from the wealthiest Americans and that is designed to promote economic growth.”

But that posture has put congressional Democrats in an awkward position this week as they prepare to face questions about their support for the president’s framework after most of them have already voted for budget resolutions put forward separately in the House and Senate.

“I think most people just see this as the starting point for talks on the debt ceiling and this being their attempt to stakeout their bargaining position. Simple as that,” another Democratic aide said.

But Sen. Bernard Sanders, for example, slammed the president for making concessions on Social Security by considering a change to the way inflation is calculated, known as “chained CPI.” Using a new formula of inflation would reduce future payments for Social Security.

The Vermont independent said in a statement late last week that he was “terribly disappointed” with Obama’s decision to include such provisions in his plan and said he would do “everything in [his] power to block President Obama’s proposal to cut benefits for Social Security recipients.”

While most Democrats have largely tried to keep their annoyance quiet, some Republicans have said the president’s budget gives them hope that they might be able to work with him on spending matters.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Sunday that he was pleased the president “is showing a little bit of leg” on entitlements. Of course, Obama has proposed entitlement changes before and been rebuffed by Republicans.

“There are nuggets of his budget I think are optimistic. It’s overall a bad plan for the economy, but when you look at chained CPI and Medicare reductions, we’re beginning to set the stage for the grand bargain,” Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “This is somewhat encouraging.”

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