WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama will veto conservative Republicans' "Cut, Cap and Balance" fiscal plan if it makes it to his desk, the White House announced Monday.
In a sharply worded statement, the administration ripped the plan -- which conditions a debt limit hike on a constitutional amendment that would require the government to balance its books each year -- as "an empty political statement" with "unrealistic policy goals." The proposal also requires substantial spending cuts and a statutory spending cap as a precondition for raising the debt ceiling.
"Neither setting arbitrary spending levels nor amending the Constitution is necessary to restore fiscal responsibility," reads the statement released by the White House. "The bill ... would set unrealistic spending caps that could result in significant cuts to education, research and development, and other programs critical to growing our economy and winning the future. It could also lead to severe cuts in Medicare and Social Security, which are growing to accommodate the retirement of the baby boomers, and put at risk the retirement security for tens of millions of Americans."
The proposal also "sets out a false and unacceptable choice between the Federal Government defaulting on its obligations now or, alternatively, passing a Balanced Budget Amendment that, in the years ahead, will likely leave the Nation unable to meet its core commitment of ensuring dignity in retirement," the statement continues.
Ultimately, the bill "is inconsistent with this responsible framework to restore fiscal responsibility and is not an appropriate method of reducing the Nation's deficits and debt," it concludes.
The White House and Congress continue to struggle for agreement on a plan to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2, the date the government is expected to run out of money to pay its bills. Failure to raise the debt limit would be a first for the country and would mean the government would have to prioritize what it funds and what it doesn't, a disastrous scenario that could result in Social Security recipients not receiving checks, among other things, and trigger major disruptions in global markets.
Despite their ongoing lack of agreement on how to proceed, both parties insist they won't let this happen, however.
In its Monday statement, the White House highlighted Obama's alternative fiscal plan to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion while "supporting economic growth and long-term job creation, protecting critical investments, and meeting the commitments made to provide economic security to Americans no matter their circumstances."
Details of that proposal remain murky, however. Obama continues to push for an aggressive debt reduction plan in his talks with congressional leaders, but the White House has yet to give specifics on where Obama might make cuts to entitlement programs.
Republicans have been pushing the Cut, Cap and Balance plan largely as a reaffirmation of their conservative principles. But such a proposal has little chance of becoming law; constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in both chambers of Congress, which is unlikely in a Democratic-controlled Senate and maybe even a stretch in the House. And even if it were to pass Congress, an amendment wouldn't take effect until it was ratified by at least 38 state legislatures.
Still, with an eye on 2012 elections, Republicans want votes on the proposal on the record. The House is scheduled to take up the bill on Tuesday, and the Senate is expected to follow later this week.
UPDATE 3:15 p.m.: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Obama's veto threat is "disappointing" and tried to pin blame squarely on the president for what he called out-of-control spending in Washington.
"While American families have to set priorities and balance their books, this White House obviously isn't serious about making the same tough choices," Boehner said in a statement. "This unfortunate veto threat should make clear that the issue is not congressional inaction, but rather the President's unwillingness to cut spending and restrain the future growth of our government."
"The House will proceed as planned with its vote on the Cut, Cap and Balance Act," Boehner added.
White House spokesman Jay Carney later came up with his own name for the GOP fiscal plan: "Duck, Dodge and Dismantle."
"This measure is classic Washington posturing and Kabuki theater," Carney said during his daily press briefing. It is "designed to duck responsibility, dodge obligation and dismantle" the nation's social safety net, including Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, he said.