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White House Plays Down Differences On Budget

(CBS)
In a conference call this morning, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag scolded reporters for looking for small differences between the Obama budget and the House and Senate budget resolutions, CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

Orszag told reporters that that 98 percent of the resolutions are the same as those in the Obama budget. In four key areas, including education, health care and energy, "they are exactly and fully in line," he said.

According to the New York Times, "The draft unveiled Tuesday by Senate Democrats reflected significant changes to Mr. Obama's proposal. It drops his appeal to set aside money for future bank bailouts, provides only a temporary fix for a mandatory income tax increasingly hitting the middle class and leaves open-ended the handling of major health care and energy initiatives."

Orszag conceded some differences between congressional and administration plans but sought to play them down, arguing that the "big story" is "how similar these things are rather than the small adjustments that were inevitable."

In an op-ed today, three moderate Democratic senators, part of a coalition of 16 moderates, wrote that they were pushing for fiscal responsibility and private-sector growth. "Many independents voted for President Obama and the contours of his change agenda, but they will not rubber-stamp it," they wrote. "They are wary of ideological solutions and are overwhelmingly pragmatic. Many of them live in our states and in the states of the other senators who have joined our group."

On the conference call, Orszag said "it's not surprising there are some adjustments that were made" to the budget, and argued that "the main thrust and bulk of the resolutions are in line with the president's priorities."

Sen. Kent Conrad, the Budget Committee chair, said his proposal would require $608 billion less spending over five years than the Mr. Obama's plan. Much of the savings would come from eliminating the administrations' middle-class tax cut after 2010.

At his press conference last night, the president declined to say whether he would sign a budget that eliminated his signature tax cut after next year.

Republicans have expressed serious opposition to the $3.6 trillion budget proposal; Sen. Richard Shelby told CBS' The Early Show that it would lead the country down "the road of financial destruction."

The president meets with the Senate Democratic Caucus at 1:00 pm ET today to discuss the budget proposals.

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