Ag Policy Blog

President Obama Gears up for a Final Budget to Nowhere

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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President Barack Obama will roll out a budget proposal on Tuesday that will be far more about rallying his base for the election year than funding federal agencies.

There could be a lot of numbers drama, but as any curmudgeon congressman will point out, "The president proposes and Congress disposes." The entire event will give congressional staffers a chance to send out tweets either praising the president for his vision or condemning the president for trying to throw such a lame duck Hail Mary.

Still, there will be numbers, possibly big ones. It's likely the White House will propose cuts to areas such as crop insurance so those numbers can be used cash flow other items on his agenda.

USDA will be holding a teleconference with reporters to discuss the budget. That's probably happening in other areas of the budget as well.

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But congressional leaders are already setting an election-year tone of their own as well. The chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees have opted to effectively ignore the president's budget requests. They aren't even planning to bring in the director of the Office of Management and Budget to talk about the president's proposals. There won't be any hearings on the budget, which is considered a break in tradition.

“Nothing in the president’s prior budgets – none of which have ever balanced – has shown that the Obama Administration has any real interest in actually solving our fiscal challenges or saving critical programs like Medicare and Social Security from insolvency,” said Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, chairman of the House Budget Committee. “Rather than spend time on a proposal that, if anything like this Administration’s previous budgets, will double down on the same failed policies that have led to the worst economic recovery in modern times, Congress should continue our work on building a budget that balances and that will foster a healthy economy.”

The budget committees themselves are somewhat irrelevant. A lot of the real work for agency requests is in appropriation committees. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., does have a full subcommittee schedule for hearings and submissions for the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations funding.

Still, appropriations can't deal with some of the big-picture items. The president's already announced he plans to propose a $10 a barrel tax on oil. In case you are wondering, that breaks down to roughly 32 cents a gallon in taxes on gasoline and diesel. (There are roughly 12 gallons of diesel fuel sand 19 gallons of gasoline in a barrel of crude oil. That funding would go toward other mass-transit infrastructure and "green" technologies though the odds of that passing Congress are probably less than the chances Johnny Manziel starts in next year's Super Bowl.

One area to watch out of the president's budget plan is the push for $755 million to fund cancer research. It really never looks good or compassionate to dismiss a push for cancer research out of political spite.

Beyond possible calls for cuts to crop insurance, another areas to watch will be funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The CFTC leaders ripped into Congress when the FY 2016 budget was finalized in December because of the lack of funding boost. The CFTC has maintained now for several years that the agency doesn't have the funds to meet its mission. A White House policy advisor wrote in a blog Monday afternoon that the president will call for doubling the funding for CFTC and the Securities and Exchange Commissions by FY 2021. Under the president's proposal, CFTC funding would get a 32% boost in 2017.…

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