President Obama and House Republicans are locked in a budget battle that could force a government shutdown next month — and have plenty of possible longer-term effects as well. House Republicans are nearing a vote on a proposed budget for the rest of fiscal 2011 that would cut federal spending by at least $61 billion. The president, meanwhile, has released his own $3.7 trillion budget proposal for 2012 — a proposal that was met with immediate scorn from both the left and right for ducking tough choices. The two plans illustrate the starkly different priorities of the president and the GOP when it comes to government spending. Here, five key areas of disagreement:
Obama's plan: The president wants to cut $78 billion from the Pentagon budget over the next 10 years. His 2012 proposal cuts defense spending by $37 billion.
GOP plan: Republicans would cut the Pentagon budget even further. Obama and House Republicans found common ground on Wednesday, canceling a $450 million project to develop an alternative engine for the F-35 fighter jet, which was "the costliest weapons program in U.S. history."
What it means: Other than the F-35 and other small cuts, the sacred cow of defense spending predictably "remains largely untouched" by both Democrats and Republicans, says Ezra Klein in The Washington Post.
Obama's plan: The president wants to increase funding for public schools and educational grants by 11 percent. He would keep the maximum Pell grants for low-income college students at their current level, $5,500.
GOP plan: Republicans want to reduce the Pell grants by $845, or 15 percent, this year — and they want to cut the program by $56 billion over 10 years.
What it means: "For most schools, the funding debate on Capitol Hill is likely to pale in importance compared with the fiscal battles emerging in state houses across the country," says Nick Anderson in The Washington Post. Even if Obama's plan goes through as is — "which is doubtful" — it won't make up for cuts being made at the state and local levels.
3. Energy and the environment
Obama's plan: The president would increase funding for oversight of offshore oil and gas drilling, eliminate billions in tax breaks for oil, gas, and coal companies, and reduce the Environmental Protection Agency's budget by $1.3 billion.
GOP plan: Republicans would cut energy and water programs by $5.4 billion, and shrink the EPA's budget by $2.7 billion.
What it means: Finding common ground in these areas "may not be an easy task," says Huma Khan at ABC News. Plus, Obama's reductions in subsidies for oil and gas have "little chance of congressional approval," says Meredith Shiner in Politico.
Obama's plan: His budget would provide $66.8 billion to ramp up research and development spending.
GOP plan: Republicans are proposing billions less than Obama — and billions less than were allocated in 2010, preferring to entrust the private sector with innovation.
What it means: "Of the differences between President Obama's budget priorities and those of Republicans in Congress, perhaps none is as stark as funding for science research and technology development," says Brian Vastag in The Washington Post.
5. Wall Street oversight
Obama's plan: Boosts the Securities and Exchange Commission budget by 28 percent, allowing the agency to hire nearly 800 new staffers.
GOP plan: Cuts $131 million in funding for the SEC. Eliminates funding for the "pay czar" who oversees executive compensation at banks that received bailout money.
What it means: The "cops on the Wall Street beat" must get the money they need to do their jobs right, says Dennis Kelleher, CEO of the think tank Better Markets Inc., as quoted by MarketWatch. But their funding is in jeopardy.
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