15 budget asks that are actually Biden’s reelection pitch
Call it the reelection-bid budget.
President Joe Biden’s new fiscal wishlist outlines a policy blueprint for Democrats gunning to keep the White House in 2024, with a heavy emphasis on celebrating the legislative wins notched during his first two years in office. Rolling out the plan in Philadelphia on Thursday to the chanting of “four more years,” Biden sold his budget as a way to both bolster the economy and the lives of regular Americans, looking to reinforce his image as an ally of working families.
While Biden hasn’t announced that he’s running again yet, his budget proposal stakes out what might as well be campaign positions on how to counter Chinese aggression, save Medicare from insolvency, tackle tax loopholes for the wealthy and more.
The proposal touts trillions of dollars in spending and policies enacted on Biden’s watch, building on passage of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid package and bipartisan infrastructure bill, plus Democrats’ signature tax, climate and health law.
Here are 15 ways the president’s fiscal 2024 budget request frames his electoral pitch:
Under tremendous pressure to appear tough on Beijing, the president is trying to deepen ties with other nations in the Indo-Pacific to outcompete China on trade.
Details: To build up trade alliances with Indo-Pacific countries, Biden’s budget calls for $2 billion to secure supply chains and boost economic competitiveness, $2 billion for hard infrastructure and $2 billion to aid projects the U.S. International Development Finance Corp supports.
Reality check: Biden has bipartisan support for deeper economic engagement in the Indo-Pacific. But the Republican-controlled House will rebuff many funding requests, and many will oppose proposals to invest billions of federal dollars overseas.
— Steven Overly
Biden is calling for tax increases on the wealthy and big business, along with tax cuts for low- and average-income people, recycling unfulfilled ideas from last year’s budget. He’s also proposing a significant cash infusion to fuel an IRS goal to crack down on tax cheats, doubling down on a Democratic message that giving the agency more money is ultimately a “deficit-reducing” measure.
Details: Biden proposes scrapping tax breaks for oil and gas production, a change the White House predicts would drive $31 billion in new revenue over the next decade. The White House is also floating a new 25 percent minimum tax on those whose net worth exceeds $100 million, as well as an increase in the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent.
In the flavor of tax breaks, Biden is seeking to expand the Child Tax Credit again, after the popular pandemic-era increase expired at the end of 2021.
The president requests more than $14 billion for the IRS, a 15 percent increase, including nearly $650 million to improve the taxpayer experience and outreach to low-income communities.
Reality check: Tax reform definitely isn’t the bipartisan olive branch of the 118th Congress. House Republicans will reject tax increases outright.
— Benjamin Guggenheim, Brian Faler and Kelsey Tamborrino
Amtrak Joe, the bridge builder
“Anytime I see a train door open, I head for it,” the president likes to say. And Biden isn’t going to miss an opportunity to use his budget to remind voters that he signed bills that are now funding new roads, bridges and train tunnels, as he leans into the “Amtrak Joe” nickname.
Details: Seeking to build on the bipartisan infrastructure law, Biden’s budget calls for about a 7 percent increase in funding for the Department of Transportation. He’s also calling for the hiring of more air traffic controllers and extra cash for the reporting system that helps railroad employees flag unsafe behavior without the fear of reprisal.
Reality check: While transportation funding is likely to be tight under a Republican-run House, lawmakers might be willing to approve higher funding for rail safety in the wake of the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
— Alex Daugherty
The president’s plan repeats his old promise to quadruple climate aid to poor countries by 2024. Leaders of nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change have long complained that rich countries, who emit more greenhouse gases, have shirked responsibility for climate challenges.
Details: To fulfill that commitment, the U.S. would have to surpass $11 billion in international climate spending each year.
Reality check: House Republicans are not big fans of increasing global climate assistance, putting a damper on any legislative prospects.
— Zack Colman
The budget aims to cut $3 trillion from the deficit over a decade.
Details: Biden would hack away at the federal budget gap through a combination of tax hikes and health savings, including a new 25 percent tax on wealthy Americans and an increase in the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent.
Reality check: The president’s shift to deficit reduction comes as Republicans rail against the party-line spending packages passed by Democrats during his first two years in office, arguing that the legislation left the country in a worse fiscal state and drove record-high inflation. But even if there’s bipartisan appetite to chip away at the deficit, Republicans will never accept the tax increases pitched by Biden’s fiscal 2024 blueprint.
— Caitlin Emma
Defense budget booster
Biden is asking Congress to fund the largest Defense Department budget in history, requesting $842 billion for the Pentagon, a $26 billion or 3.2 percent increase.
Details: The budget would bolster U.S. military forces in the Pacific to counter China’s aggression, as well as continue support for Ukraine’s war against Russia and bringing the country’s nuclear arsenal up to date.
Biden’s plan includes $9.1 billion for the Pentagon’s Pacific Deterrence Initiative, $6 billion for Ukraine, NATO and other European partners, and nearly $38 billion to maintain the nuclear deterrent. It includes an average 5.2 percent pay raise for service members and Defense Department civilian workers, the largest in decades.
Reality check: The fiscal 2024 request stresses the administration’s dedication to countering China and maintaining support for Ukraine.
But it will almost certainly be rejected by leaders on Capitol Hill, particularly Republicans who have pushed Biden to seek military budgets that outpace inflation to keep up with China’s military modernization.
Congress has already given the Pentagon billions of additional dollars in the last two years that Biden didn’t seek. This fiscal year’s $858 billion national defense budget, for example, is $45 billion more than Biden requested after lawmakers rallied around a significant bipartisan spending hike.
— Lara Seligman and Connor O’Brien
Biden’s plan would extend the life of Medicare by at least 25 years.
Details: The fiscal 2024 request would increase Medicare taxes on Americans making more than $400,000, close a loophole that has shielded some from paying that levy and allow Medicare to negotiate more prescription drug prices, pouring about $200 billion in savings into the program.
Reality check: GOP leaders on the Hill and former President Donald Trump have promised to preserve Medicare and Social Security, while some fiscal conservatives argue that entitlement cuts should be considered in a debt ceiling standoff this year. Any effort to overhaul the programs, however, amounts to a massive bipartisan lift in Congress that lawmakers aren’t close to achieving.
— Caitlin Emma
Amid rising mortgage rates and an ongoing affordable housing shortage, Biden calls in his budget for a combination of tax perks and federal cash to boost housing supply.
Details: His plan includes $51 billion in increased tax incentives to spur construction and funding for new project-based rental assistance contracts.
Reality check: There’s bipartisan support for increasing the tax benefits, including the low-income housing credit and a new “neighborhood homes” credit.
Support could also grow for plans to use $10 billion to reward state and local governments that ease zoning rules and other barriers to construction. But there’s less bipartisan momentum behind a proposal to steer $10 billion to a program to help cover down payments for first-generation homeowners.
— Katy O’Donnell
The administration wants $5 billion in new election assistance cash for states, doled out over the course of 10 years.
Details: The funding would start with an infusion of $1.6 billion in 2024, with an additional $375 million each year after that. The money would flow through the Election Assistance Commission, a small federal agency set up in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election to spearhead election modernization efforts.
Reality check: Congress, even under Democratic control, hasn’t fulfilled Biden’s election funding requests in previous budgets. Case in point, his fiscal 2023 budget asked for $10 billion over 10 years, a request that didn’t come to fruition. Republicans on key committees in the House have also said they believe election funding should be doled out on an as-needed basis.
— Zach Montellaro
Biden is re-upping his asks for paid family and medical leave, plus other employee protections, fashioning himself as a working-families advocate.
Details: The budget seeks up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, and urges Congress to guarantee that employers offer a minimum of seven sick days that workers could use throughout the year without penalty. It also calls for $430 million in increased funding for the Labor Department’s worker protection branches, as part of a $1.5 billion overall boost.
Reality check: Paid leave was left by the wayside during Democrat’s party-line spending deal, in part due to opposition from centrist Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Republicans. And there is little chance GOP leaders in the House will agree to lavish money on the Labor Department to launch more employer probes.
— Nick Niedzwiadek
Trying to magnify a legislative win he already notched last year, Biden’s budget calls for a buildup of the country’s science and tech apparatus. That includes billions of dollars more for programs created under the law he signed last summer to claw back a larger share of the global chip manufacturing market from Asia.
Details: Biden is seeking an extra $6.5 billion to that end, including a $1.8 billion boost for the National Science Foundation. New cash would also be used to wrangle investments in science and emerging technologies, in part through a budget boost for a new National Science Foundation effort to coordinate dollars from the business world with public research and development money.
Reality check: While leaders in both parties are keen on supercharging federal science and tech programs in a bid to outcompete China, it’s not clear that Republicans will want to shell out significantly more money for research or advanced manufacturing projects.
— Brendan Bordelon and John Hendel
No C-suite ally
Biden’s budget calls for quadrupling a tax on Wall Street share buybacks, a request that will strengthen his bonafides among his party’s most liberal voters. Progressive icons Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have both decried the stock-buyback tactic as an example of public companies prioritizing shareholders over investments in their workforces or communities.
Details: The White House is framing the proposed 4 percent tax as a way to push companies to direct funds toward expansion rather than well-heeled foreign shareholders. But buybacks also benefit major institutional investors in the U.S., including public pensions and retirement systems.
Reality check: The 1 percent levy on buybacks that Biden signed into law as part of Democrat’s climate and health care law last year has done little to dissuade public companies from repurchasing their shares on the open market. And Biden’s buyback plan has little chance of surviving the Republican-led House, having already elicited opposition from the likes of Warren Buffet, who recently called the rejection of buybacks the work of “an economic illiterate or a silver-tongued demagogue.”
— Sam Sutton
Advocate for low-income families
The president is calling on Congress to allow SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, for more people, including those who have been in jail, and to hike funding for the WIC program that helps parents buy baby formula and other food.
Details: Biden’s budget seeks to broaden eligibility rules for the SNAP program and let people receive the benefits for longer. He proposes $6.3 billion for the WIC program, a 5 percent increase.
Reality check: Republican lawmakers want cuts to the food stamp program and are also eager to enforce work requirements that have been waived during the pandemic.
— Garrett Downs
Biden’s budget re-ups two big-ticket education proposals he trumpeted on the campaign trail the first time around — universal pre-K and free community college, both broadly popular ideas among Democratic voters.
Details: The plans call for major new federal spending. Expanding preschool for three- and four-year-olds would cost $200 billion over the next decade. Free community college would be about $90 billion over that timeframe.
Reality check: Democrats failed to enact those plans during Biden’s first two years in office, despite controlling both chambers of Congress. Now Republicans control the House, and the proposals are non-starters as the new majority pushes to cut federal spending.
— Michael Stratford
Health cost cutter
Biden wants an extra $15 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, amounting to a more than 11 percent increase for the agency, while building on efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs, expand health care access and advance his cancer “moonshot.”
Details: The budget includes $150 billion over a decade for Medicaid home- and community-based services, $20 billion for pandemic preparedness, nearly $20 billion for mental health and $10.9 billion for global health.
The proposal also includes additional cash for long-term care improvements, maternal health, telehealth and family planning.
Notably, Biden didn’t ask for significant new Covid funding, a reminder of the administration’s plan to wind down its emergency pandemic response in the coming months amid congressional Republican resistance to providing more money.
Reality check: GOP leaders aren’t feeling especially charitable to help enact big health spending increases after Democrats secured significant investments through Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid aid bill during his first year in office and the party’s health, tax and climate legislation last year.
— Daniel Payne
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