Obama Aides To Defend Budget Plan To Congress

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President Barack Obama is sending his Treasury secretary and budget director to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to defend his proposed tax increases, which are being met with misgivings by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

Lawmakers in both parties question Obama’s call to reduce high-income earners’ tax deductions for the interest on their house payments and for charitable contributions. Also drawing fire is his proposal to start taxing industries on their greenhouse gas pollution — a move sure to raise consumers’ electric rates.

Obama and his top aides have been promoting the budget package since unveiling an outline last week, but Tuesday will provide the lawmakers their first opportunity to publicly question top officials about the details.

Administration officials say the nation’s economic crisis requires bold action to right the economy and expand access to health care while providing tax breaks to middle- and low-income families.

The economy took another hit Monday when the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged below 7,000 for the first time since 1997.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was scheduled to appear Tuesday before the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, which also is likely to question him about Obama’s declaration last week that he may be asking Congress this year for another $750 billion bailout for troubled banks.

Meanwhile, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag was to testify Tuesday before the House Budget Committee on Obama’s spending priorities in the administration’s $3.5 trillion budget blueprint for the 2010 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Obama has been careful throughout the presidential campaign and since being elected to say he would impose higher taxes only on the wealthiest. Republicans, however, say Obama’s energy proposal amounts to a tax that would increase energy costs for all Americans.

“This massive hidden energy tax is going to work its way through every aspect of American life,” said Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee. “How we light our homes, heat our homes and pay for the gas in our cars, in every phase of our daily lives, we will be paying higher costs.”

Under the energy plan, Obama wants to reduce the emissions blamed for global warming by auctioning off carbon pollution permits. The proposal, known as cap and trade, is projected to raise $646 billion over 10 years.

Most of the money would be used to pay for Obama’s “Making Work Pay” tax credit, which provides up to $400 a year to individuals and $800 a year to couples. The plan also would raise money for clean-fuel technologies, such as solar and wind power.

Orszag has acknowledged that the energy proposal would increase costs for consumers, but he argues that the vast majority of consumers will get tax breaks elsewhere in Obama’s budget package.

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