WH Chief of Staff Defends Contraceptives Decision, Talks Budget

White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew joined “Fox News Sunday” to preview the president’s FY 2013 budget, but first he defended the administration’s position on the contraceptive controversy that has dominated headlines this week.

“The president has the authority under the Affordable Care Act to have these kinds of rules take effect,” Lew said in response to the question of how the president can force a private company to provide a product free of charge.

In addition, Lew argued, that providing contraception will not cost insurance companies anything,

“If you were looking at the actuarial projection, the cost of the plan, it costs more to provide a plan without than it does with.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a sternly-worded statement Friday in response to the president’s revision to the new rule, which in part calls the decision, “unacceptable” and says it “must be corrected.”

“We didn't expect to get universal support of the bishops or all Catholics. I think that what we have here is a policy that reflects bringing together two very important principles in a way that's true to the American tradition. And that's what the president is trying to do. There are others who want to have a clash over it. We want to bring these two principles together,” Lew said.

Pointing to statements of support from Catholic Health Association and Catholic charities, Lew said that the policy put forward Friday, “is something that should put this issue to rest.”

Lew said despite protests from the bishops, the policy will be finalized in the rules.

On Monday, the president releases his budget blueprint for the fiscal year 2013. Lew, who twice served as head of Office of Management and Budget, discussed the main points.

Lew said the president will present a plan to reduce deficits by $4 trillion over 10 years, including the $1 trillion in cuts agreed upon in Congress last fall.

Lew confirmed that this plan will be similar to the one the president released last year which was roundly rejected by Republicans in Congress.

The president will count savings from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan , which amounts to about $850 billion, in his projections, a calculation critics have often called gimmickry.

Lew defended the accounting by arguing that military spending would continue to grow if those funds are not taken out of the defense budget.

“It’s very real,” Lew said of the savings.

The new budget will also revise the deficit forecast for the end of FY 2012 to $1.3 trillion.

Anchor Chris Wallace pointed out that in February 2009, the president vowed to cut the deficit in half by the end of this first term.

While that goal will not be realized (the deficit in FY 2009 was $1.4 trillion), Lew argues that the budget the president presents Monday will bring deficits down to more manageable levels.