Lawmakers Debate Impact of Deficit Projections on Obama's Budget Plan

President Obama is expected to receive bad news on the budget front on Friday as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office releases what sources say will be a grim assessment of his $3.6 trillion budget's affect on the nation's deficit, a $1 trillion increase above previous projections.

The staggering figures will include the recently-passed $787 billion stimulus bill and the $410 billion omnibus spending package, both adding directly to the deficit, and to members' concerns that Obama is trying to do too much, too fast.

Obama has projected an historically-high federal deficit of $1.75 trillion this year, but he expects to cut that down to $533 billion by 2013.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., chairman of the Budget Committee, said earlier this week that spending will have to be reexamined as a result,

"All of us understand that we're going to get new estimates from CBO soon and they will be more adverse," he said. "It's going to require adjustments."

Asked on Thursday if Obama priorities like health care reform and financial rescue plans would take a hit as a result of major increases in the deficit, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said, "It's going to be sobering, to put it mildly, and will affect a lot of decisions that will be made around here. It will certainly affect any thought of a second stimulus package or additional money for TARP."

Lieberman all but said a major expansion of health care will not happen this year, unless major spending cuts or tax increases are implemented.

"I think on healthcare reform, these kinds of numbers, as much as people want to extend health care to every American right away, these kinds of numbers...will, I think, make a lot of members of Congress of both parties be concerned that whatever we do on health care reform doesn't add yet another unfunded or unsupported expense," he said.

"If we want to add to a program, we better have the guts to cut spending or raise taxes to make it happen," Lieberman said.

But the grim news did not appear to affect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who told reporters, "Everyone knows that Obama inherited the financial mess we're in."

"Of course we're going to have to change the numbers in the budget, not based on CBO necessarily, but what's going on in the economy," he continued. "Remember this, the priorities in the Obama budget, we will pass. Those priorities are: making sure we do something about energy, health care, and education, and making sure the middle America is rejuvenated."

Reid added, "There's no problem with the CBO numbers coming out. We need more accurate numbers."

But Lieberman said he hopes the bad news will galvanize efforts to curb wasteful spending, like a bill he introduced Thursday with Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., that would give the president the power to extract questionable spending items from appropriations bills, like earmarks, and force a separate vote in Congress on those items.

"I don't think the American people, hearing those (new deficit) numbers, as anxious as they are about the economy, are just going to let us keep spending money, and we shouldn't," Lieberman warned.

For his part, Gregg, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, and an ardent fiscal hawk, echoed concerns of the majority of Republicans in Congress, who have for weeks been decrying the Obama budget.

"The budget that was sent up is not sustainable for our nation," he said. "They are creating a structural failure in our economy, in our country, and in our governing."

"If you have debt in 2013, public debt at 67% of GDP under the president's score, and you have a deficit of over 3% of GDP, and that goes on're on a path where you are basically bankrupting the nation," he added. "And the new numbers from CBO are going to be worse, significantly worse."