Pursuing a path of deficit reduction and government reform, President Obama will tonight in his State of the Union address call for a ban on earmarks and he will propose a five year budget freeze on non-security related discretionary spending, ABC News has learned.
The proposals come as the president prepares to tackle the deficit and debt and as he faces a House of Representatives in Republican hands, many of whose members include those affiliated with the Tea Party who may be willing to embrace both moves.
The president will propose some new spending in certain areas that address the speech’s theme of “How We Win the Future”: innovation, education and infrastructure. But those increases will be proposed within the context of a proposed partial budget freeze.
The FY 2011 budget was $3.8 trillion; $1.415 trillion of which was discretionary spending. The president's proposal would save, according to estmates, roughly $400 billion.
Last year President Obama proposed a three-year hard freeze on non-security discretionary spending , which White House officials said would save $250 billion over the next decade. (Non-discretionary spending includes items such as Social Security and Medicare.)
As for earmarks, President Obama has long been critical of the process in which members of Congress insert their pet projects into legislation without having them first go through the normal appropriations process, but Congress has continued to put billions of dollars of such projects in bills that arrive at the president’s desk.
After the midterm elections, which President Obama called a “shellacking,” he cited earmarks as a reason why some voters may have gone for the GOP.
“I’m a strong believer that the earmarking process in Congress isn’t what the American people really want to see when it comes to making tough decisions about how taxpayer dollars are spent,” the president said. “And I, in the rush to get things done, had to sign a bunch of bills that had earmarks in them, which was contrary to what I had talked about. And I think folks look at that and they said, ‘Gosh, this feels like the same partisan squabbling, this seems like the same ways of doing business as happened before.’”
The president said it was his understanding than House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., was pushing a moratorium on earmarks and “that’s something I think we can work on together.”
*This post has been corrected