WASHINGTON - The Obama administration, under pressure to show it is serious about tackling the budget deficit, is seizing on an unusual target to showcase fiscal responsibility: the $700 billion financial rescue.
The administration wants to keep some of the unspent funds available for emergencies, but is considering setting aside a chunk for debt reduction, according to people familiar with the matter. It is also expected to lower the projected long-term cost of the program -- the amount it expects to lose -- to as little as $200 billion from $341 billion estimated in August.
The idea is still a matter of debate within the administration and it is unclear how much impact it would have on the nation's mounting deficit levels. Still, the potential move illustrates how the Obama administration is trying to find any way it can to bring down the deficit, which is turning into a political as well as an economic liability.
The White House is in the early stages of considering what bigger moves it might make for next year's budget. The Office of Management and Budget has asked all cabinet agencies, except defense and veterans affairs, to prepare two budget proposals for fiscal 2011, which begins Oct 1, 2010. One would freeze spending at current levels. The other would cut spending by 5 percent.
OMB is also reviewing a host of tax changes. The President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board will submit tax-policy options by Dec. 5, including simplifying the tax code and revamping the corporate tax code.