February 16, 2016Article

Washington Post (Opinion): Obama’s Budget Challenges Republicans to Spend Smartly

by E.J. Dionne Jr.

Federal/ 2016/

For the first time since the modern budget process was initiated more than 40 years ago, the Republican chairs of the Senate and House Budget committees announced that they would not invite the president’s budget director to testify.

What seems like an act of disrespect against President Obama (something Republicans have reveled in for seven years) may also have reflected frustration that the chairmen, Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Rep. Tom Price (Ga.), felt when their leadership often went around them in negotiations on last year’s big budget accord. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a champion of decorum and regular order, is reportedly unhappy over the snubbing of Shaun Donovan, Obama’s budget chief.

In any event, Republicans probably wouldn’t mind if Obama’s new budget were widely ignored. Then they would not be forced to admit that many of the values that underlie it — the desire for social programs that promote work, the need to use evidence in deciding which programs to fund — are values they extol.

Ryan has said repeatedly that he believes in doing more to help the poor and has co-sponsored legislation with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to push for evidence-based policymaking. As it happens, Obama’s new budget includes ideas that Ryan has supported in the past (such as an increase in the earned-income tax credit for low-income childless workers) and other proposals (such as a program to improve nutrition during the summer for poor children who participate in the school lunch program) that are based on pilot tests and careful research on what works.