Obama Sets Up Budget Battle With GOP

February 2, 2015 Updated: February 3, 2015

President Barack Obama sent Congress a $4 trillion budget proposal on Monday, replete with populist reform staunchly opposed by Republicans, but it could galvanize the Democratic base for 2016.

The 2016 fiscal year budget proposes record-level federal spending and the expansion of welfare programs in education and for two-income families funded with hundreds of billions in tax hikes on inheritances and capital gains, policies that Republican leaders have firmly rejected in the previous weeks.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio.) condemend the tax hikes when Obama first spoke of the proposal weeks ago, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) dismissed them on Sunday, and Budget Committee chair Tom Price (R-Mich.) attacked the idea once again on Tuesday.

“A proposal that never balances [the budget] is not a serious plan for America’s fiscal future,” Price said. “The president is required by law to submit a budget proposal. It is a suggestion and a wish list, but the budget of Congress sets the outline of spending for the coming year.”

Many observers have called the proposal a “dream budget” indulgence by a lame-duck president, whereas others see the budget as a political trap for Republicans in 2016.

“His base supports that policy and would be critical of him if he did not articulate it and present it in his budget,” said Stephen J. Wayne, a professor at Georgetown who studies presidential leadership. “The failure of the Republican Congress to budget sufficient funds for his priorities will become a campaign issue in 2016 from which the president believes the Democrats will benefit.”

After hitting a nadir before the 2014 mid-term elections, Obama’s approval rating has climbed in recent weeks and reached over 50 percent for the first time in 18 months on Jan. 26, according to a Gallop poll.

The unrealistic demands could also serve as a higher ground for the start of compromises with the Republican Congress. In the past, Republicans have often shown themselves to be recalcitrant on the subject of tax hikes, which was on full display when the government nearly shut-down during the 2011 budget debates, which was largely seen as a victory for Republicans.

The budget agreed upon in 2011 had $38.5 billion in spending cuts, which was labeled as the largest non-defense cut in history.

“He needs to begin budget debate at a point from which he can compromise not at the point of compromise,” Wayne said.