WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama came under new pressure to address the mounting federal debt as a report Friday concluded that deficits over 10 years will be higher than administration projections and after a majority of senators urged him to take the lead on reduction.
Obama, leading Democrats and Republicans all have proposed negotiations to rein in deficits, but talks have yet to begin. Experts have warned that, without action, the situation could balloon into a European-style fiscal crisis.
Friday’s report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office amplified the worries. It said Obama’s proposed 2012 budget would result in $9.5 trillion in deficits over the next decade – $2.3 trillion more than the administration projected.
White House budget director Jacob Lew said the CBO report relied on different economic assumptions and failed to credit the administration for its anticipated reductions in transportation and health costs. The Obama budget projected deficits would total $7.2 trillion over the decade.
“But regardless of our differences, CBO confirms what we already know: current deficits are unacceptably high,” Lew wrote on the Office of Management and Budget blog, “and if we stay on our current course and do nothing, the fiscal situation will hurt our recovery and hamstring future growth.”
Republican leaders in Congress seized on the report to portray the president as unresponsive to the rising concerns about the nation’s debt.
“(The) report exposes the widening gulf between the president’s rhetoric and his budget’s reality,” said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget committee.
Concern over the rising discrepancy between revenues and expenditures led 64 senators – half Democrats and Republicans – to sign a letter to Obama pressing the president to take a more active role on the deficit.
Anti-deficit groups said the show of bipartisanship showed that the mood in Washington had shifted.
Separately, another bipartisan group of six senators has been meeting for months to devise a budget blueprint. Their plan would be based on conclusions last year by Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission.
Meanwhile, House Republicans also are developing a comprehensive budget proposal.