Obama cutting back on budget deficit reductions

President Barack Obama will propose an election-year budget that would drop reductions he had previously embraced in federal benefits, officials disclosed Thursday. He also will ask Congress to approve about $56 billion in new or expanded programs, stepping back from aggressive efforts to tackle long-term government deficits and debt. Obama is scrapping his previous offer to trim cost-of-living increases in Social Security and other benefit programs. That idea had been a central component of his long-term debt-reduction strategy, even though it was considered odious by many Democrats. The decision amounts to a White House acknowledgement that Obama has been unable
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Raising minimum wage could cost half-million jobs by 2016

A report by Congress’ nonpartisan budget analysts seems to have thrown Democrats onto the defensive after it concluded that the party’s drive to boost the federal minimum wage could cost a half-million jobs by 2016. A Congressional Budget Office report released Tuesday concluded that a gradual increase to $10.10 hourly by that year — which is what President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are seeking — would increase pay for more than 16.5 million people, mostly those earning low wages. It also would lift 900,000 people over the federal poverty threshold, the study said. Democrats hailed those findings. But in
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Anti-Obamacare rants: Facts don’t support rhetoric

As is normal in political debates, the facts come up short of matching rhetoric, especially when it comes to anti-Obamacare rants from the usual collective of Republican naysayers. The rabid right has jumped on a new report from the Congressional Budget Office that claims the new healthcare law will “encourage” millions of Americans to quit work or reduce their hours on the job so they can qualify for more benefits and subsidies from the government. This, of course, rings an “I told you so” chorus from Republicans who pound their chests and say the report proves what they claimed all
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Does new health care law mean fewer people on the job?

Several million American workers will cut back their hours on the job or leave the nation’s workforce entirely because of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, congressional analysts said Tuesday, adding fresh fuel to the political fight over “Obamacare.” The workforce changes would mean nationwide losses equal to 2.3 million full-time jobs by 2021, in large part because people would opt to keep their income low to stay eligible for federal health care subsidies or Medicaid, the Congressional Budget Office said. It had estimated previously that the law would lead to 800,000 fewer jobs by that year. Republican lawmakers seized
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As budget numbers improve, zeal for more cuts wane

New U.S. budget deficit estimates due on Tuesday will likely show a rapidly improving fiscal picture over the next few years, contributing to a waning appetite in Washington for further budget cutting. The Congressional Budget Office is expected to revise downward its deficit forecasts over the next 10 years. Many analysts believe that major deficit reduction is highly unlikely before President Barack Obama leaves office in 2017, and lower deficit forecasts could reinforce that view. The CBO in May last year forecast a $560 billion deficit for fiscal 2014, which ends September 30. That matches the median estimate from 29
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White House claims easy ride to lifting debt limit

A top White House official voiced confidence on Thursday that Republicans would agree in the next few weeks to lift the country’s borrowing limit without using the confrontational tactics that rattled financial markets in past years. White House Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell said she believes there is less appetite on Capitol Hill for the messy fiscal standoffs that have taken place in recent years, such as the 2011 struggle over the debt limit and last October’s budget fight that led to a 16-day shutdown of the government. In an interview with Reuters, Burwell pointed to the passage earlier this
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House rushing for approval of new farm bill

The House is rushing to complete work on a nearly $100 billion-a-year farm bill that would make small cuts to food stamps and continue generous subsidies for the nation’s farmers. Conservative Republicans in the House helped defeat an earlier version of the bill last summer, and some of those lawmakers hoped to do so again Wednesday, saying the $800 million in annual cuts to food stamps isn’t enough. But the final version of the five-year bill has solid backing from the House GOP leadership, even though it makes smaller cuts to food stamps than they would have liked. Leaders scheduled
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Without young enrollees, Obamacare could get sick

Now that more than 2 million people have signed up for private insurance plans created by President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, a crucial next check-up for the new marketplace will be to see how old customers are. Early data from a handful of state exchanges shows the administration needs more young adults to sign up in the next three months to help offset costs from older enrollees and prevent insurers from raising their rates. Critics of Obama’s Affordable Care Act say the market won’t attract enough young people to keep it financially viable, putting more pressure on government funds to
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Obamacare’s line: ‘Don’t worry, bet happy’

The U.S. government said it was still processing thousands of sign-ups for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law on Tuesday as Americans made a final rush to obtain medical coverage in time for New Year’s Day. Citing nearly 2 million visits to the HealthCare.gov website and over 250,000 inquiries at call centers before Monday’s sign-up deadline, the government gave consumers an extra day to enroll by midnight on Tuesday for January coverage. It added flexibility by encouraging consumers to contact government call centers if they had started but not been able to finish their applications, without specifying
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A road paved with sand

Bills have been introduced into both the House and the Senate to dismantle the federal government’s role in interstate highways and leave that massive responsibility to individual states. Tea Party adherents and other conservatives are applauding this effort. The Interstate Highway System, they argue, was largely completed in the 1980s and local communities should provide their own transportation needs. The new transportation bill proposed by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Representative Tom Graves (R-Ga.) however, tragically misses the mark when it comes to our national infrastructure needs. Their legislation would abandon the highway trust fund just when our roads and
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