WASHINGTON — President Obama, on the defensive as Congressional Republicans press to rein in spending, will propose to extend for another two years the three-year partial freeze of domestic programs that he suggested in 2010, and will call for $78 billion in military spending cuts, when he delivers the annual State of the Union address on Tuesday night.
The extended freeze of domestic programs other than automatic entitlements or programs relating to security, which would save an estimated $350 billion through fiscal year 2015, would be “a down payment toward reducing the deficit,” said an administration official who declined to be identified by name discussing the speech in advance. “In areas outside the freeze, we also will be looking for cuts and efficiencies.”
Those exempted areas include most of the federal budget, including the biggest and fastest-growing spending categories like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and national security, along with interest payments on the nation’s debt.
This will be Mr. Obama’s first State of the Union address to a Congress under divided control. Advisers say he will lay out his case for investing in education and infrastructure, while tempering his call for new initiatives in acknowledgment of the country’s long-term fiscal challenges.
The new Republican leaders in the House pushed through a resolution on Tuesday calling for cuts in spending on domestic programs to 2008 levels. The House Republicans, who are divided over just how much to cut spending, have not specified where many of the cuts would be made — reflecting the painful choices to be made in programs covering transportation, education, science, food safety, and much more.
The domestic programs that would be affected by Mr. Obama’s proposal amount to about one-seventh of the overall federal budget.