WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden sees funding for crime prevention as a place where the White House and congressional Republicans may find agreement, Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in an interview.
“We think there’s absolutely room to have bipartisan legislative accomplishments from pieces he’s presenting in this budget,” Young said. “One thing that comes to mind is safer communities. It shouldn’t be controversial, it should be bipartisan, to agree that we should have more cops on the beat in this country.”
Biden laid out his spending priorities Thursday in the third budget proposal of his presidency.
And while many of the president’s proposals are nonstarters for Republicans, there are several areas in which the White House sees potential for bipartisan agreement, including rail safety and crime prevention, Young said.
House Republicans are expected to release their budget next month, a move that could kickstart more serious discussions with the White House. Biden has, so far, met just once with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who has called for cuts in spending and a focus on deficit reduction.
Young described Biden’s plan to reduce the deficit by $3 trillion, which he would achieve by raising taxes that Republicans oppose on corporations and wealthy Americans, as “the beginning of a dialogue.”
The president’s budget also includes increased funding for rail safety — $1.5 billion for rail safety improvement grants, for instance — Young said, as concerns about the issue mount following derailment last month in East Palestine, Ohio.
“And it just doesn’t stop at the budget,” Young said. “We want to work with Congress on bipartisan legislation to make sure that these railroads are operating safely through these communities. This should not happen in this country.”
The White House emphasis on the president’s budget has shifted this year as Biden is expected to announce a 2024 re-election bid. Notably, the White House fact sheet on the budget, a summary of the 182-page document, emphasizes some politically charged issues that weren’t mentioned in the one distributed last year, including Medicare, Social Security, Republican positions, border security and immigration.
In another shift from Biden’s previous budgets, the one this year does not allocate funds specifically for combatting Covid-19. Instead, Biden is requesting $20 billion for pandemic preparedness broadly.
At the same time, the president is asking for more funds to deal with the southern border, including a proposal for a $4.7 billion contingency fund that’s designed to allow Customs and Border Protection and ICE to access the money depending on migration flows at the border.
“We’re saying to Congress, give us tools, triggers, so if migration patterns change, money is released so that we can adequately manage the border,” Young said
While the White House sees the president’s budget as an opening salvo in negotiations on federal spending, Biden is maintaining his hard-line position that he won’t negotiate with Congress over raising the debt limit to cover money the government has already spent.
The U.S. is expected to reach the current limit in August and would default on its debt if Congress does not pass legislation to increase that amount.
Asked if she can guarantee the U.S. will not default, Young declined to do so.
“We need Congress to do its duty to make sure that does not happen,” she said. “That is why this president has been crystal clear that there is a time and a place to talk about the appropriations process spending. We do that every year. … What we should not do is tank the U.S. economy, the global economy, by playing politics.”