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Republicans Reject Obama's $4 Trillion Budget Proposal

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

President Obama released an ambitious $4 trillion budget proposal today. It was dismissed by congressional Republicans even before the bound copies were delivered to Capitol Hill. The White House says there's value in spelling out the president's priorities, even if most are ignored by Congress. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The president's budget assumes the U.S. economy will grow at a modest pace of about 2.5 percent in each of the next three years. Forecasters think that's likely in part because Congress agreed late last year to loosen the government purse strings that had been crimping growth. Obama says putting aside austerity let's his budget work for the country, not against it.

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BARACK OBAMA: It adheres to last year's bipartisan budget agreement. It drives down the deficit. It includes smart savings on health care, immigration, tax reform.

HORSLEY: But the president's budget for fiscal year 2017 carries even less weight with the GOP-controlled Congress than Obama's earlier spending plans, most of which went nowhere. Obama will be out of office less than four months into the new budget year. And Republican members of the Senate Budget Committee, like Roger Wicker of Mississippi, aren't even holding a hearing on the plan.

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ROGER WICKER: His final budget as president of the United States has arrived with a resounding thud here in the Congress of the United States.

HORSLEY: Obama proposed a $10 a barrel tax on crude oil to fund transportation projects, along with new spending on job training and food aid for kids during the summertime when the school lunch program is not available. None of those ideas is likely to be adopted. But White House budget director Shaun Donovan says some smaller pieces of the president's budget could get traction, even with the GOP.

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SHAUN DONOVAN: There is a significant bipartisan interest in investing in cancer research, ensuring that everyone struggling with opioid addiction can get treatment and expanding tax credits that support work and reduce poverty to workers without kids.

HORSLEY: Obama's also seeking $11 billion next year for the battle against ISIS, about $3.5 billion to shore up European defenses and discourage Russian aggression and $19 billion to enhance the nation's cybersecurity. Today's rollout of the budget was largely overshadowed by coverage of the New Hampshire primary. But even as the spotlights shift to those jockeying to replace Obama in the Oval Office, Donovan insists the president will keep pushing his own agenda.

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DONOVAN: The president isn't going to shy away from proposing solutions that are both good for our economy and address major challenges that we face. Those proposals may not be enacted this year, but they lay the groundwork for reaching solutions in the long run.

HORSLEY: The aspirational nature of the president's budget was illustrated by the color photo on the cover - Alaska's Mount Denali gleaming in the sunshine. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan quickly launched a Twitter poll asking if the mountain was meant to symbolize taxes, spending or debt. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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