The Obama Administration announced that their 2014 will be delayed once again. By law, President Obama’s budget was due on February 4. Sadly, this White House has viewed the law, as more like a set of guidelines, to be followed when it is convenient. Instead, congressional sources indicate that Obama will release his budget on April 8, more than two months late.
“Will he ever commit himself to a plan?,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee said in an interview with The Hill. “The budget is so late, it doesn’t give me much confidence. It is almost like he is leading from behind even more than before.”
Not almost. This is the purest example of President Obama leading from behind. Typically, by which we mean, by law, the President releases his budget in February, then the Congressional Budget Office publishes an analysis, then the House and Senate Budget Committees begin consideration of the proposal before ultimately submitting their own resolutions.
But House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray have announced they will release their budgets next week. This will then mark the first time since 1921 that the president’s budget will not be introduced first.
So what’s up with the delay? Perhaps, Obama is simply frustrated that his last two budgets haven’t received a single vote in the Senate. That’s right, not one single Democratic senator could muster up the courage to align themselves with Obama’s statement of priorities. Or perhaps, as is more likely, the White House continues to lick its wounds over their sequester drubbing.
The loss wasn’t limited to a singular political event; no, the public’s response to the sequester threatened the core of Obama’s worldview. As Stephen F. Hayes writes for ] Weekly Standard:
“The White House recognizes that the fight over the sequester is about much more than the immediate reduction in the growth of federal spending. In some respects, it’s about the central rationale of the Obama presidency-that government is a force for good in the lives of Americans, not just necessary but constructive and even benevolent.”
That’s why President Obama threatened to veto Congressional Republicans’ attempt to give him more flexibility to make the sequester’s “cuts.” Not only did he not want to bear the responsibility, he didn’t want voters to see how easily the federal government could be cut with so little effect on their everyday lives.
“The longer this fight drags on, the harder it will be for the administration to pretend it can’t find savings,” writes Sen. Tom Coburn in a must-read op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. “After all, what is dramatic isn’t the size of the sequestration cuts but recent increases in government spending. Since 2002, total federal spending has increased nearly 89% while median household income has dropped 5% and median wealth has dropped 23%.”
So maybe Obama doesn’t want to go first because he needs to change the narrative. He needs the public to forget that there is plenty of fat to trim in the federal budget. But changing the narrative requires a foil, an opponent he can turn into a straw man, which he can promptly set fire to, and then bask in the glow of the flames.
The first clue of this approach happened last week when President Obama sat down for a dinner with GOP legislators. The much-discussed “charm offensive” sets up the public, and mainly the media, for the inevitable “Obama tried to reach a consensus,” stories that will inevitably follow the protracted disagreement over budgetary priorities. Obama will try and appear to be the adult in the room, the one who stays above the fray and chides the children for not being able to get along. But throughout all the public relations machinations to come, remember this, courtesy of the Washington Post:
“The goal is to flip the Republican-held House back to Democratic control, allowing Obama to push forward with a progressive agenda on gun control, immigration, climate change and the economy during his final two years in office, according to congressional Democrats, strategists and others familiar with Obama’s thinking.”