TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Steve Chiotakis: In case you didn’t know — but I bet you did — it’s President Obama’s 100th day in office. He’s got a budget that’s before Congress and that appears ready to make it through sometime today. Marketplace’s Steve Henn joins us now from Washington. Steve, did the president get what he wanted from the budget?
Steve Henn: Well he got most of what he wanted, but not everything. One thing he didn’t get was $750 billion for future bank bailouts. You know, the original bank bailout has just over about $100 billion left in it, and some analysts think that may not be enough. So the Obama administration wanted to at least have the ability to replenish that. But in most other ways, the president got almost everything he asked for. This budget sets money aside for health care and climate change initiatives. And you know, perhaps the biggest victory is the budget resolution creates a path to pass sweeping health care reforms with just 51 votes in the Senate. Now that might not sound like a big deal, but Republican leaders hate this. Normally to get anything through the Senate, you need 60 votes, which makes any given bill pretty easy to kill. So getting that language included might just be Obama’s biggest win here.
Chiotakis: So we’re talking about a lot of money — at least $3.5 trillion. What else is in this thing?
Henn: There’s more than $1 trillion in discretionary spending, and $760 billion in tax cuts over the next five years. And it’s gonna put the government on a path to some really big deficits, including a $1.2 trillion debt next year.
Chiotakis: I can’t imagine, Steve, that Congress is very happy about that.
Henn: No. You know, Republicans have been criticizing the administration for months now about deficit spending, and some members of the president’s own party, Blue Dog Democrats, have been really worried about this. Now the Blue Dogs are conservative Democrats and they’ve made fiscal responsibility their key issue for years. And members of the Blue Dogs in the House actually blocked the passing of this budget yesterday, and they forced the administration and Senate leaders to promise that they would get behind a new piece of legislation that would in the future force Congress to pay for any new tax cuts or spending programs with either new taxes or cuts in other places in the budget. They got that deal in place, we’ll see if that bill passes, but obviously there’s a lot of concern on the Hill right now.
Chiotakis: Marketplace’s Steve Henn, joining us from Washington. Steve, thanks.
Henn: Sure thing.
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