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Obama budget offer to drop olive branch for Republicans

Obama budget offer to drop olive branch for Republicans

BUDGET BATTLE: The budget offer, to be issued on March 4, will adhere to spending levels agreed to in a two-year bipartisan budget deal that was achieved at the end of last year, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One after attending the North American Leaders Summit in Toluca, Mexico, Wednesday, Feb. 19. Obama met with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Photo: Associated Press/Dario Lopez-Mills

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s soon-to-be released budget proposal for the 2015 fiscal year drops a past offer to trim cost-of-living increases in Social Security, a White House official said on Thursday.

The offer made in last year’s budget had been an attempt to gain some Republican support and break through congressional gridlock. Dropping it this year is a sign Democrats are girding for November congressional elections and in no mood to risk supporting proposals that could cost them votes from seniors on Election Day on November 4.

The budget offer, to be issued on March 4, will adhere to spending levels agreed to in a two-year bipartisan budget deal that was achieved at the end of last year, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Obama budget will include new proposals, including expanded tax credits for the working poor, the official said.

Obama’s budget drops a controversial change in how the government calculates inflation for Social Security and other federal benefits.

The White House official said this proposal had been made last year in an effort to spur Republicans into a compromise by identifying tax loopholes they could close and reach an overall deficit reduction plan.

“However, over the course of last year, Republicans consistently showed a lack of willingness to negotiate on a deficit reduction deal, refusing to identify even one unfair tax loophole they would be willing to close despite the president’s willingness to put tough things on the table,” the official said.

The official said the offer remains on the table “for whenever the Republicans decide they want to engage in a serious discussion about a balanced plan to deal with our long-term challenges” that includes closing tax loopholes for wealthy Americans and corporations.

(Reporting By Steve Holland, Roberta Rampton and Caren Bohan; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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