FACTBOX-Political roadblocks to Obama’s budget

By Reuters Staff
February 3, 2010

Feb 2 (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama faces major hurdles to get his $3.8 trillion budget plan through Congress. Obstacles include members of his own — at times fractious — Democratic Party.

Obama proposed and Congress ignored many of the same policies last year, though expiration of individual tax cuts enacted by former President George W. Bush at the end of this year virtually ensures individual tax issues will be addressed.

Below is a summary of roadblocks facing some of Obama’s key proposals.

TAX INCREASES FOR THE WEALTHY

Fulfilling a campaign pledge, Obama proposed extending the Bush tax cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples making less than $250,000. For those making more than that, Obama proposed letting the cuts expire. That would bring the top two income tax brackets back to 39.6 and 36 percent, from 35 and 33 percent respectively.

Some fiscally conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives have called for keeping the rates lower for at least two years to sustain the economic recovery.

Democratic Senate and House leaders are generally believed to back letting the lower rates expire for the upper income groups, although they have not addressed the issue recently.

CAPITAL GAINS AND DIVIDEND TAXES

Obama proposes raising the long-term capital gains and dividend tax rates back to 20 percent for those making more than $200,000 and couples at more than $250,000. Again, a small group of Democrats have called for a temporary extension of the 15 percent rate, citing the fledgling recovery.

TAX ON HEDGE, PRIVATE EQUITY FUND MANAGERS

Obama once again proposed taxing “carried interest” earned by hedge fund and private equity fund managers as ordinary income, which would boost the tax rate from 15 percent to typically the highest income bracket.

The proposal passed in the House late last year but has hit a roadblock among Democrats in the Senate.

LIMITING ITEMIZED DEDUCTIONS FOR THE RICH

Obama proposed limiting itemized deductions, including for mortgage interest, for those making more than $200,000 or couples making more than $250,000, to 28 percent of their income. This idea was proposed last year and met with fierce opposition — from realtors, charities and members of both parties.

FINANCIAL CRISIS RESPONSIBILITY FEE

Obama’s proposed big bank tax is expected to face tough opposition from Republicans, who will likely try to shield some of the largest companies from a $90 billion tax spread out over 10 years. The tax, which is designed to recoup taxpayer losses associated with the financial bailout, is expected to be a target of intense lobbying from the financial industry.

House Republicans have already come out against the bank fee, saying it will simply drain capital from the banking industry and hurt lending. Even Warren Buffett, one of the world’s most respected investors and an Obama supporter, said the bank tax does not make sense, as big banks would be largely paying for the bailout of the automakers and AIG.

FARM SUBSIDIES

Obama proposed cutting farm subsidies and federal support of crop insurance by $10 billion over 10 years.

Farm leaders from both parties on Capitol Hill stated opposition to the cuts within hours of the proposal.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack offered to work with lawmakers to find an acceptable package of cuts, but lawmakers rejected similar cuts last year. Obama says the farm program should focus on family farmers and restrict subsidy payments to wealthy growers.

THREE-YEAR SPENDING FREEZE ON DOMESTIC SPENDING

Liberal Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have said Obama’s proposed freeze should also apply to military spending, which he exempted. House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey said he will stay within the overall spending limits suggested by the White House, but might allocate it in a different manner — for example, more could be cut from the Pentagon’s budget to make way for more spending on transportation, environmental protection, or other domestic programs.

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/