After giving up on his controversial plan to end 529 college savings plans, President Barack Obama will attempt to draw a new battle line with congressional Republicans over automatic spending cuts that remain baked into the nation’s budget.
The forced budget cuts, known as sequestration, which were passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama, took effect in 2013, resulting in sometimes dramatic impacts on agencies across the federal government. Pentagon officials have warned repeatedly the cuts threaten military readiness.
In his speech to House Democrats in Philadelphia on Thursday evening, a White House official said the President “will announce that his budget will reverse harmful sequestration cuts,” claiming they threaten both the economy and U.S. military.
Obama’s pitch to tackle the sequester presents the White House with an opportunity to reboot its economic message after administration officials conceded their plans to effectively end 529 college savings plans had become a “distraction.”
“This was a concern for both Democrats and Republicans on the Hill. We decided to take that to heart,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said on Wednesday about the administration’s reversal on its 529 policy.
Obama is also expected to hammer GOP lawmakers over a potential fiscal crisis looming for the Department of Homeland Security.
To protest the President’s executive action on immigration late last year, House Republicans insisted on only a short-term infusion of funds for DHS, or continuing resolution that expires at the end of February.
“This is a mess they created back in December when they decided to opt for that fight over the immigration reform actions the President took,” Schultz told reporters on Wednesday.
Administration officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, have insisted that the U.S. should avoid budget battles over the department at a time when the nation is facing a myriad of terror threats.
Obama is expected to echo that warning in his Thursday address to House Democrats.
“The President will join the Democrats in Congress in vehemently opposing that dangerous view and calling for a clean funding bill to ensure we are funding our national security priorities in the face of cyber-security and security threats abroad,” a White House official said about Obama’s upcoming speech.
With the nation’s economic recovery accelerating and the budget deficit on the decline, the White House is eager to engage in a debate with Republicans over what it calls “the era of manufactured crises and mindless austerity.”
The government shutdown in late 2013 badly damaged the GOP’s image for months, though not enough to prevent the party from claiming both houses of Congress in the 2014 mid-term elections.
Now in control of Congress, Republicans are just as motivated for a new budget clash with Obama.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said House Republicans have passed measures to replace the sequester in the past as well, but have yet to be impressed with any of the President’s budget proposals.
“Until he gets serious about solving our long-term spending problem it’s hard to take him seriously,” Cory Fritz, Boehner’s spokesman said in response the President’s expected remarks.