President Obama today defended his 2012 budget proposal amid criticism from Republicans that it does too little to rein in the burgeoning U.S. deficit and costly entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
"You cut back on what you can afford to focus on what you can't do without. And that's what we've done with this year's budget," the president said in his first news conference of the year.
"What my budget does is to put forward some tough choices, some significant spending cuts, so that by the middle of this decade, our annual spending will match our annual revenues. We will not be adding more to the national debt," he said when asked about the GOP criticism. "We're not going to be running up the credit card anymore."
Touting his $3.73 trillion budget, Obama urged the kind of bipartisanship that was achieved late last year in extending tax cuts for Americans.
"I recognize that there are going to be plenty of arguments in the months to come, and everybody's going to have to give a little bit," he said in the hour-long news conference. "We've found common ground before."
He admitted that more needs to be done to curb the rapidly rising costs of entitlement programs but also warned that it must be done step by step and by both Democrats and Republicans.
Republicans have specifically objected to plans to end subsidies for oil and gas firms, impose higher taxes on multinational corporations and to reduce tax deductions for higher-income groups. Others say the budget doesn't tackle the issue of the $14 trillion debt.
GOP leaders say it's the president who needs to take the lead role in overhauling entitlement programs.
"With regard to our long-term unfunded liabilities -- the entitlements -- we are waiting for presidential leadership," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. "We know and we'll say again that entitlement reform will not be done except on a bipartisan basis with presidential leadership."
While Democrats were less vocal in their objections, many are against the deep cuts the White House is proposing in community grants and the home heating assistance program, both of which help lower-income groups.
Obama's 10-year budget plan would increase the national debt by $7.2 trillion in 10 years; $1.1 trillion less than if it weren't implemented.
Although it cuts several programs for low-income groups that the president said are part of the "tough choices" he has had to make, it isn't nearly as tough as the plan proposed by Obama's bipartisan deficit commission, which called for a sweeping overhaul of Medicare, an increase in the Social Security retirement age, and ending tax deductions for mortgages.
Deriding the media's coverage of the budget, the president disputed the idea that the deficit commission's recommendations had been shelved, saying that "it still provides a framework for conversation."
"You guys are pretty impatient," he told reporters. "If something doesn't happen today, then the assumption is it's not going to happen."