WASHINGTON — Even as it adds fuel to battles over taxes and Social Security, President Barack Obama’s budget will reprise lots of smaller-bore proposals that have gone nowhere in a gridlocked Washington.
Ideas such as higher Transportation Security Administration fees on airline tickets, the end of Saturday mail delivery and higher pension contributions for federal workers are the hardy perennials of Obama’s budgets, reprised year after year, along with more widely known proposals like taxing oil companies and the rich. Many of the ideas have been seen as candidates for inclusion in broader deals that have never come to pass.
Obama proposes about $200 billion in savings outside of health care costs, including a new fee on telecommunications companies and other users of federally licensed communications spectrum and billions of dollars claimed by selling off excess federal properties. They are part of Obama’s most recent, spurned budget offer to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in December and will be reprised when Obama’s budget comes out on Wednesday.
Efforts for a “grand bargain” on the budget between Obama and Congress have proven elusive, however, and stand-alone attempts to advance the proposals — including cutting farm subsidies and overhauling the Postal Service — have bogged down as well.
At issue are dozens of longstanding options to trim the federal budget. They include eliminating direct payments to farmers even if they don’t produce a crop and curbing $30 billion worth of Medicare payments over a decade to hospitals to reimburse them for patients who don’t pay deductibles. But the nature of budget cuts or new fees is that they often go after powerful interest groups. So they typically die, only to be reprised year after year as the administration assembles its budget wish list.